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Liberal of the 1920's 

Men ani Movements Scries 


Osw^ald Garrison ViUard, 


D. ]oy Humes 



Library of Congress Catalog Card: 60-15159 




To Marjoric DUlcy 


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in 2011 witii funding from 

LYRASIS IVIembers and Sloan Foundation 



American liberalism has generally been regarded as erratic 
and unsystematic in its development, and essentially fluid 
and frequently elusive in its doctrine. As its lack of con- 
tinuity and consistency are generally accepted, so too is 
there general agreement that the years 1918-32 covered one 
of its periodic declines. 

Yet it would seem to the more sympathetic observer that 
there is a semblance of continuity to American liberalism 
and some consistency in its content. This, after all, is what 
is implied in the commonly used term "the American liberal 

The pages which follow undertake to demonstrate that 
the American liberal movement of the current century has 
lacked neither continuity nor consistency. Close study of 
the 1 9 1 8-3 2 period establishes that liberalism was not in total 
eclipse during the period; that it was energetically and cour- 
ageously expounded and defended if only by a handful of 
men, of whom Oswald Garrison Villard was one; and that 
the liberalism of this period was a connecting link or bridge 
between the more articulate liberal programs which pre- 
ceded and followed it, namely, progressivism and the New 
Freedom on the one hand and on the other the New Deal. 

viii Villard, Liberal of the i^zd's 

The method of approach used herein rests on the assump- 
tion that a political philosophy in the abstract is incomplete. 
Its concrete manifestations become clearer through an analy- 
sis of some historic figure who attempted to put the theory 
into practice. The person chosen to represent liberalism in 
the twenties for the purpose of this study is Oswald Gar- 
rison Villard. The liberal faith and liberal crusade were 
part and parcel of Villard's life. He lavished time and energy 
in a host of ways and through scores of organizations on 
the multitude of causes to which he was devoted. Yet no 
studied attempt has previously been made to place him 
squarely in the stream of American political liberalism. 

Villard's career falls neatly within the scope of a study 
on recent American liberalism. It began in 1896 with his 
service on the Philadelphia Press and was continued from 
1897 to 1 9 18 on the New York Evening Post, service which 
spanned the Square Deal of Theodore Roosevelt, the Pro- 
gressive movement, and the New Freedom. In 19 18 Villard 
assumed editorship of the Nation and did not relinquish it 
until 1932 — the year which marked the advent of the New 
Deal. Thus his years of active ownership and editorship of 
the Nation coincide exactly with that period of American 
liberalism generally characterized as in eclipse. These were 
his most influential years — those in which he made his great- 
est contribution to the American liberal tradition and earned 
his reputation as a "fighting liberal." 

That which follows is not a biography, although bio- 
graphical details are utilized to illustrate Villard's philosophy 
and activities on behalf of liberalism. Neither is this book in- 
tended as a history of the period but rather as a study of 
some of the principal strands of American liberalism in a 
period of cynicism, disillusionment, and reaction. As such, 


Preface ix 

it cannot avoid history, for political theory does not and 
should not develop external to the realities of the world 
with which it deals. 

I am indebted to a number of persons who have con- 
tributed to this study by providing access to correspond- 
ence, records, and personal information about Oswald Gar- 
rison Villard, or by otherwise aiding in the research. Sincere 
appreciation is accorded to Villard's sons, Henry Hilgard 
Villard and Oswald Garrison Villard, Jr.; to Burton K. 
Wheeler; to Professors P. R. Coleman-Norton of Princeton 
University and Russell Nye of Michigan State College; to 
George E. Belknap, university editor. University of Oregon; 
to Frank A. Parsons, director of publicity, Washington and 
Lee University; to Mr. Damon Buell; to Mrs. Lewis Dayton; 
to the New York Times Book Review; to Mr. Philip Slomo- 
vitz, editor-publisher of the Detroit Jewish News; and to 
Dr. Volkmar von Zuehlsdorff of the Munich weekly Die 

For kind and resourceful support, the Library Staff of 
Syracuse University deserves my heartfelt thanks, as does 
Miss Helen Wurthman of the New York State Library. The 
capable and expert assistance of Miss Katharine E. Brand, 
Head of the Recent Manuscripts Section of the Library of 
Congress, and Miss Carolyn E. Jakeman of the Houghton 
Library, Harvard University, deserves special note and ac- 

Mr. Konrad C. Mueller, with courtesy and generosity, 
shared with the author the Villard manuscripts at Harvard, 
on which he had prior claim because of his projected bi- 
ography of Villard. His contribution to this study is, there- 
fore, beyond assessment. 

I wish also to note my obligation to Syracuse University 

X Villard, Liberal of the ip20^s 

for a fellowship grant which made the research for this 
volume possible and to President Louis Jefferson Long of 
Wells College for kind and willing support. 

I owe an intangible debt to Dr. Lucia Burk Kinnaird, 
formerly of the University of California and now of Oak- 
land Junior College, for kindling what was a mere spark 
of interest in public affairs. It was a passing remark of Pro- 
fessor Dwight Waldo of the University of California which 
roused my interest in Villard, and to him, therefore, my debt 
is incalculable. To Professor Mary Elizabeth Bohannon of 
Wells College, I am grateful for continued encouragement 
and moral support. 

My greatest personal debt is to Dr. Marguerite J. Fisher 
of Syracuse University. To her I offer my special apprecia- 
tion and most profound gratitude. 

D. Joy Humes 

Wells College 
June, ip6o 



The author is grateful to the following publishers for per- 
mission to make quotations from their publications: to the 
University of Chicago Press for quotations from "Democ- 
racy, The New Conservatism, and the Liberal Tradition 
in America," by Stuart Gerry Brown, in Ethics, 1955; to the 
Columbia University Press for quotations from The Progres- 
sive Movement of 1924, by Kenneth MacKay, copyright 
1947; to Harcourt, Brace & Co., Inc. for quotations from 
The Liberal Tradition in America, by Louis Hartz, copy- 
right 1955, and for quotations from Fighting Years: Memoirs 
of a Liberal Editor, by Oswald Garrison Villard, copyright 
1939; to Longmans, Green & Co., Inc. for quotations from 
Borah of Idaho, by Claudius Johnson, copyright 1936; to 
Doubleday & Company, Inc. for quotations from The State 
Papers and Other Public Papers of Herbert Hoover, edited 
by William S. Myers, copyright 1934; to the Nation for 
a quotation from "Oswald Garrison Villard," by Freda 
Kirchwey, copyright 1949, and for its generous permission 
to quote freely and liberally from its pages; to the Reporter 
for quotations from letters to the editor by Russell Kirk and 
William C. Brady, copyright 1955; to the University of 
Utah for the quotation from "The New Deal: The Progres- 

xii Villard, Liberal of the ip20^s 

sive Tradition," by Rexford Tugwell, in Western Political 
Quarterly, copyright 1950; and to the Yale Revieiv for the 
quotations from "Toward an American Conservatism," by 
Clinton Rossiter, copyright 1955. 


Preface vii 

Acknowledgments xi 

I. Forging of a Liberal i 

II. American Liberal Tradition 15 

III. A Liberal's Concern for Individual Freedoms . 33 

IV. Noblesse Oblige: A Liberal Interpretation . 76 
V. Toward More Political Democracy ■ ^^5 

VI. Quest for a Liberal Party 126 

VII. Repudiation of a "Business" Society 154 

VIII. Approach to Internationalism and Pacifism . 193 

IX. Last of the Liberals? 254 

Bibliographical Notes 264 

Index 269 

Liberal of the 1920's 


Forging of a Liberal 

It has been said of Oswald Garrison Villard that he was 
given a legacy compounded of New England abolitionism, 
the German Revolution of 1848, and Northern Pacific Rail- 
road shares. To this might appropriately be added that 
printer's ink flowed in his veins. It would seem almost in- 
evitable that Oswald Garrison Villard should have become 
both a newspaperman and a liberal crusader, for he inherited 
a family background unique for its richness in those pursuits, 
on the maternal as well as the paternal side. 

Villard's father, Heinrich Hilgard, was only thirteen when 
he took his stand on the German Revolution of 1848. He 
chose to support his uncle, Friedrich Hilgard, the head of 
the provisional revolutionary government of Bavaria, rather 
than his father, a judge, who had remained loyal to the 
throne. The subsequent collapse of the revolution with its 
accompanying reaction, and the parental ire which pursued 
him, ultimately led to Heinrich Hilgard's adoption of the 
name Henry Villard and his flight to America in 1853. 
Eighteen years of age, unable to speak English, and with 
only twenty borrowed dollars to his name, Henry Villard 
proceeded to make for himself a fortune and a place in 
American history. He began as a newspaperman, first re- 
porting the Lincoln-Douglas debates in German for the New 

2 Villard, Liberal of the ip20^s^ 

York Staatszeitung. There followed assignments on the Cifi^ 
cinnati CoTTtmercial, St. Louis Missouri-Democrat, New 
York Tribune, and New York Herald. Among his assign- 
ments were the discovery of gold in Colorado and the Civil 
War battles at Bull Run, Shiloh, Fredericksburg, Charleston, 
and Missionary Ridge. 

Sent as a war correspondent by the New York Tribune 
to the Austro-German War, Henry Villard arrived after the 
cease-fire, but remained for two years. It was during a return 
visit to Germany in 1872 that his son, Oswald, was born 
on March 13, and Henry became associated with the Ger- 
man stockholders of the California Railroad Company, mark- 
ing the beginning of his contribution to the history of 
transportation in America. Asked to become a member of 
the bondholder's protective committee, he returned to Amer- 
ica as its official representative. He later joined a similar 
committee of the Kansas Pacific Railroad Company. He 
became manager of these two committees and also of the 
Oregon Steamship Company. Subsequently he became presi- 
dent of the railroads and a receiver of the steamship com- 
pany. In 188 1 he purchased controlling interest in, and 
became president of, the Northern Pacific Railroad. It was 
under his management that the transcontinental line was 
completed. The Golden Spike ceremony was to stand out 
vividly in Oswald Villard's memory, for he "saw his father 
the center of a tremendous celebration in one city and state 
after another, . . . beheld him ranked in public honor with 
the then President of the United States, and acclaimed al- 
most as much as the distinguished ex-President and con- 
queror of the Confederacy, General Grant." ^ 

^ Oswald Garrison Villard, Fighting Years: Memoirs of a Lib- 
eral Editor (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1939), p- 46. 

Forging of a Liberal 3 

It was in 188 1 also that Henry Villard, apropos of his 
continuing interest in journaHsm, bought the Neil) York 
Evening Post and its weekly supplement, the Nation, which 
was subsequently to become the vociferous instrument of 
Oswald Garrison Villard's liberalism. 

In addition to making newspaper and railroad history, 
Henry Villard played an important part in the development 
of electricity in America. In 1893 he purchased the Edison 
Lamp Company and the Edison Machine Works which 
became the Edison General Electric Company under his 
leadership and presidency, and later became the General 
Electric Company. Villard, along with J. P. Morgan and 
others, had been subsidizing Edison for some years. Edison 
reportedly acknowledged that he could never have achieved 
what he did without the complete faith and aid of Henry 
Villard, one of the few men to visualize the potentialities 
of electricity. "In pioneering," said Edison, "you have to 
have a man with nerves to adopt your ideas. I have found 
the man. He is Henry Villard." ^ Villard was the first to 
attempt the application of electricity to railroads. He con- 
tracted with Edison to build the first electric railroad in 
America at Menlo Park, hoping that he could adopt its pas- 
senger locomotive for the Northern Pacific. The system 
which resulted was that which came into use on the New 
York Central and New Haven roads. Villard is also credited 
with building the first electrically lighted steamship, the 
Columbia, in 1879. 

This, then, was Oswald Garrison Villard's father — youth- 
ful rebel and republican, war correspondent and newspaper 

2 Quoted in William Adams Simonds, Edison, His Life, His 
Work, His Genius (New York: Blue Ribbon Books, Inc., 1940), 
p. 266. 

4 Villard, Liberal of the i^ids 

owner, railroad financier and promoter of the practical ap- 
plication of electricity. 

Next to his father, Villard's greatest heritage was perhaps 
from his maternal grandfather, William Lloyd Garrison, to 
whom has been attributed the "puritan pull" in Villard's 
blood. Surely the fact that his Grandfather Garrison was 
the Great Liberator had some causal relationship to the 
fact that Oswald Villard became one of the founders of the 
National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peo- 
ple. It has been said of William Lloyd Garrison that he 
was taught by a pious mother to see moral implications in 
all things. He could conceive of slavery, for example, only 
as a moral issue, a national sin. His intransigence in the 
matter led to a split among the antislaveryites — a split along 
the lines of whether abolition was a moral or a political 
problem and consequently a difference over the methods 
and tactics to be adopted by the abolitionists. Wendell 
Phillips Garrison, son of the Great Liberator and uncle of 
Oswald, in speaking of the poetry his father had written 
from the time he was sixteen, noted that nearly every piece 
bore the stamp of the moralist. It is not too surprising, then, 
to hear that Oswald Villard, finding himself faced with 
losing an argument on political grounds, would resort to 
making a moral issue of the problem involved or that he was 
quick to find moral implications in the other man's point 
of view. A close associate of Villard on the Nation has 
written of him that "he would never have disputed another 
man's right to disagree with him about peace or racial equal- 
ity or free trade; but it was hard to persuade him that such 
contrary views were sincerely held or honestly advocated. 

Forging of a Liberal 5 

To him they were simply wrong, and to harbor wrong 
opinion was at leaSt circumstantial evidence of evil mo- 
tives." ^ Villard himself called attention to this character- 
istic: "I have never been able to work happily with men 
or women who are incapable of hot indignation at some- 
thing or other — whether small or big, whether it stirred me 
personally or not, if only it was something. To minimize 
every evil is to my mind to condone it and in time to destroy 
one's influence." It was Villard's infectious moral indigna- 
tion that was to inspire his Nation staff in the years in which 
it was molded into the most effective crusading organ of 
its day. 

Recalling that the banner headline of William Garrison's 
first issue of his antislavery journal, the Liberator was "Our 
country is the World — Our countrymen are all mankind," 
it seems appropriate for his grandson to have taken a special 
interest in international affairs and to have added an Interna- 
tional Relations Section to his liberal weekly, the Nation, at a 
time when it was not yet fashionable to be "world-minded." 

Again recalling the masthead of the Liberator, "I am in 
earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will 
not retreat a single inch— AND I WILL BE HEARD," one 
can more readily understand and sympathize with the un- 
compromising nature of the grandson of that journal's 
editor when, in a radio address on the eve of relinquishing 
the editorship of the Nation, he said: 

It is not, of course, easy to thrust away at the injustice 
on every hand, nor to seem to be the perpetual caviler. 
But it is far far worse to be a compromiser; to be a toadier 

3 Freda Kirchwey, "Oswald Garrison Villard," Nation, 
CLXIX (October 8, 1949), 340. 

6 Villard, Liberal of the 1926's 

to things as they are; to bow the knee to Baal; to seek 
only to advance one's own interest and let the devU take 
the hindmost .... Nobody can, I hope, truthfully aver 
that I ever compromised on a principle, or failed to tell 
the truth as I saw it. 

On another occasion, one on which he admitted that he was 
taking an uncompromising position on an issue, Villard 
reiterated the words of his grandfather's good friend, Wen- 
dell Phillips, "I must entrench myself upon principle and 
leave the working out of details to Almighty God." 

As his grandfather found it necessary, or at least con- 
venient, to publish his own newspaper to assure that he 
would be heard, so too did Oswald Villard. Again and again 
he justified his independent weekly in terms of the need for 
maintaining a free press and the need for providing a medium 
through which a minority might be heard. "What," he 
asked, "is to be the hope for the advocates of new-born and 
unpopular reforms if they cannot have a press of their own, 
as the Abolitionists and the founders of the Republican 
Party set up theirs?" 

Villard's personal correspondence abounds with references 
to his mother, Fanny (Helen Frances) Garrison Villard. 
Their relationship was an exceptionally close and binding 
one, and she exerted a tremendous influence on his personal 
character. Villard might well have been describing his 
mother's son rather than his mother when he wrote, for 
example, that like her father before her, she "was incapable 
of compromise, without being either a bigot or narrowly 
puritanical .... To modify any position she took for 

Forging of a Liberal y 

reasons of expediency — that was unthinkable; to shift her 
ground in order to gain a personal advantage, or to avoid 
unpleasantness, was as impiDssible for her as for her father." * 
After her husband's death in 1900, Fanny Garrison Vil- 
lard took a more active part in the causes to which she had 
long been devoted — woman suffrage, the Negro problem, 
and peace. She was president of the Women's Peace Society 
from 19 19 to 1928 and was active in the National Associa- 
tion for the Advancement of Colored People and the Woman 
Suffrage Association. She made the major address on behalf 
of the Woman Suffrage Association in Boston on February 
23, 1910, when 1,500 women paraded from State House to 
Ford Hall in pursuance of their cause. One would seem 
justified in assuming that she influenced her son in his ac- 
quiescence to the request of Dr. Anna Shaw, president of 
the National Woman Suffrage Association, that he form a 
Men's League for Woman Suffrage which he did with the 
aid of Professor Max Eastman. Fanny Garrison Villard 
took justifiable satisfaction in the record made by the men 
of her family on the woman suffrage movement. "It gives 
me joy," she once remarked publicly, "to remember that not 
only my father, William Lloyd Garrison, but also my good 
German-born husband believed in equal rights for women." ^ 
It must indeed have given her additional satisfaction at a 
later date to see her son as he walked down New York's 
Fifth Avenue in the first woman suffrage parade — one of 
a handful of men that day who braved both jeers and rotten 

^ Villard, Fightiiig Years, p. 2 1 . 

5 In Ida H. Harper (ed.). The History of Woman Suffrage 
(New York: National American Woman Suffrage Assn., 1922), 
V, 244. 

8 Villard, Liberal of the 1^20's 

Oswald Villard remarked upon his indebtedness to his 
family background as follows: "These were the 'divergent' 
strains which made me what I am. These were the parents 
who gave me every opportunity in life, every benefit that 
wealth could bestow and forged for me the tools that I used 
in my effort to mold the public opinion of my time." ^ 
From this background emerged one who was to carve out 
a life embracing the roles of college teacher, newspaper 
reporter, editor, publisher, author of numerous books, busi- 
nessman, and club man. Out of it grew a man accused of 
being a spy, traitor, liar, pro-German, the rankest negro- 
phile in America — a man known, on the other hand, as 
reformer, fighting liberal, liberal crusader, fighter for truth, 
honor, justice, and fair dealing, a man who feverishly at- 
tacked everything he thought was wrong. 

Villard's early childhood was divided between New York 
City and his father's summer estate at Thorwood, Dobbs 
Ferry. As a youngster he attended New York's private 
Morse School. In the fall of 1889 he entered Harvard where 
he had what he described as an undistinguished career, and 
from which he graduated in 1893. He returned to Harvard 
after a year of travel in Europe to study for the master's de- 
gree in history and to act as assistant to Professor Albert 
Bushnell Hart in the area of United States history. Villard 
regarded himself as not really a competent teacher; he 
records that, while he enjoyed it, he did not find teaching 
sufficiently stimulating to wish to make a lifetime career 
of it. To his father, who wanted him to stay in the teaching; 

^Villard, Fighting Years, p. 23. 

Forging of a Liberal . 9 

profession, he explained that teaching was out of the stream 
of everyday events. "It is," he explained, "like sitting in a 
club window and watching the world go by on the pave- 
ment outside." He chose instead to go into journalism, where 
distinguished service was to merit him an honorary Phi Beta 
Kappa key from Howard University; an honorary Doc- 
tor of Literature degree from both Washington and Lee 
and Howard Universities; and an honorary Doctor of Laws 
from both Lafayette College and the University of Oregon. 

In addition to an active writing career spanning the years 
1896 to 1947, Villard had considerable stature as a business- 
man. He was president of the Fort Montgomery Iron Com- 
pany, Garrison Realty Company, and City Club Realty 
Company and was a director of various banks in New York 
City. He was owner of the Nautical Gazette, a journal of 
marine news, and he founded Yachting magazine. 

Villard was an active club man. He was vice president and 
trustee of the New York City Club for eleven years, presi- 
dent of the Philharmonic Society from 1915 to 19 17, and a 
member of the Harvard, Century, and University Clubs in 
New York City, as well as the Cosmos Club in Washington, 
D.C. Needless to say, there were many times when his 
liberal views conflicted with those of his fellow club mem- 
bers. Villard would profess hurt and puzzlement upon being 
avoided at luncheon at one of his clubs, seemingly unable 
to comprehend why his friends should take personally his 
attacks on Wall Street, tariffs, and trusts. One writer has 
remarked of Villard in this respect that "if he was given 
wealth, he was taught to look beyond it. It enabled him to 
sit with the titans of the day and to despise them; it gave 
him what the self-made, the greedy, the hangers-on never 

lo Villard, Liberal of the ip20^s 

possessed and could never afford to possess — the sense of 
their own futility." "^ 

Villard's facility for writing was apparently phenomenal. 
Reminiscing members of the Nation staff to this day marvel 
at the speed with which he wrote editorials. His pen always 
busy, Villard was the author of many books. Among them 
are: The Early History of Wall Street (1897); Joh?i Broivn: 
A Biography Fifty Years After (1910); Germany Embat- 
tled (1915); Some Newspapers and Newspapermen (1923); 
Prophets True and False (1928); The German Phoenix, the 
Story of the Republic (1933); Fighting Years: Memoirs of 
a Liberal Editor (1939); Inside Germany (1939); Our Mili- 
tary Chaos: The Truth About Defense (1939); The Disap- 
pearing Daily (1944); Free Trade, Free World (1947). 
These titles reflect only a few of Villard's interests — history, 
journalism, international affairs, and economics. 

In addition to writing books and writing for his own 
Nation, Villard contributed to such journals as Century, 
Scribnefs, Harpefs, Forum, Christian Century, and Pro- 

Oswald Villard had had only six months experience as a 
reporter for the Philadelphia Press when he presented him- 
self for work on the New York Evening Post on May 24, 
1897, ^^ ^^^ insistence of his father, its owner, and Horace 
White, then second in charge to the editor, Edwin Godkin. 
The Evening Post was one of New York's oldest and most 
distinguished newspapers. Founded in 1801, some claim by 
Alexander Hamilton, it numbered among its distinguished 

'^ Alfred Kazin, "America at High Noon," American Mercury, 
XL VII (June, 1939), 241. 

Forging of a Liberal • ii 

editors William CuUen Bryant, Carl Schurz, Edwin L. God- 
kin, and Horace White. Villard's father had purchased con- 
trolling interest in the Evejiing Post in i88 1. Upon his father's 
death Villard inherited the paper, assumed its presidency, 
and shaped its policy until he relinquished it in 1918. 

Villard has been credited with having done much through 
the Evening Post to mold the philosophy of the New Free- 
dom and to guide President Wilson in his first administra- 
tion. The Evening Post warmly supported Wilson in his 
gubernatorial campaign of 191 2 and has been credited with 
influencing the intellectuals to flock to Wilson's support and 
in general giving nation-wide impetus to the Wilson boom 
for the Presidency. 

Villard's views on preparedness and universal military 
training and his opposition to American entry into World 
War I made him and the Evening Post unpopular. Loss of 
advertising contracts and subscribers made the financial 
situation of the Evening Post so precarious that in the sum- 
mer of 1 91 8 Villard was forced to sell it. He comforted 
himself with the thought that he had stayed with it as long 
as possible, in his family tradition. "Whatever else may be 
said of us," he wrote, "we don't run under fire. I accom- 
plished what I wished to — keeping our great paper from 
becoming like all the others, a Hun-hater and suppressor 
of news." ® 

On February i, 1918, Villard had assumed the editorship 
of the Nation, which, because of its practice of reprinting 
Evening Post articles, had become characterized as a kind 
of weekly edition of the daily. As a forerunner to the sale 

8 Villard, Fighting Years, p. 333. 

12 Villard, Liberal of the 1^26's 

of the Evening Post, Villard, on June 28, 19 18, announced 
the complete editorial separation of the Nation from the 
Post. With its editorial independence thus publicly estab- 
lished, and himself lodged as editor, Villard secured full 
ownership of the Nation for himself at the time he sold the 
Evening Post to Thomas W. Lamont. 

Villard's direct connection with the Nation, begun in 
January, 1894 with his first contribution, was to continue 
for half a century. From 1900 to 191 8 he was editorial writer 
and president of the Nation Press, Inc. He was editor and 
owner of the Nation for fourteen years, from February i, 
1918 to December 31, 1932; publisher and contributing edi- 
tor from 1933 to 1936; and an editorial associate from 1936 
to 1 940, at which time he broke with the editorial board over 
its nonpacifist policy toward the war in Europe. 

The pages which follow are primarily concerned with 
the period during which Villard was solely responsible for 
the Nation's policy by virtue of being its owner, editor, 
and publisher — the years 19 18 to 1932. Significantly, the 
circulation figures of the weekly jumped in the first two 
years of Villard's editorship from 7,200 in 191 8 to 38,087 
in 1920. While they never exceeded 38,087 under his editor- 
ship, they never fell below 24,732. One needs only to com- 
pare circulation figures prior to and since Villard's editorship 
to gauge his effectiveness with the Nation. Under the great 
Edwin L. Godkin, the Nation's circulation never exceeded 
12,000. Under Villard's immediate successor, Freda Kirch- 
wey, it topped his record circulation in only six of the 
twenty-two years of her editorship. In 1959 the Nation's 
circulation stood at 26,601, considerably below the 35,409 
figure of 1932 when Villard gave up the editorship. 

These circulation figures are not large, and their number 

Forging of a Liberal 13 

alone cannot be taken as a measure of the Natiofi's influence 
and consequence under Villard's leadership. Periodical litera- 
ture does not lend itself readily to measurement of its politi- 
cal influence. Historians have noted, however, that during 
the period 1918-28 the task of influencing opinion by direct 
discussion was largely taken over by liberal weeklies such 
as the Nation and the Neiv Republic. However difficult it 
may be to measure quantitatively the influence of Villard's 
Nation, it stands as a voice of American liberalism in the 
years 1918-32. 

Villard gave up control and management of the Nation 
on December 31, 1932, at which time he expressed his hope 
of continuing to write for it "until Death do us part," but 
this was not to be. He contributed weekly signed articles 
until June 31, 1940, when his uncompromising pacifism, 
maintained steadfastly through three wars, led to a sharp 
break with his staff over military training and aid to the 
Alhes. Villard had lost the Eveniiig Post as a result of his 
editorial policies in the First World War, and thus the Sec- 
ond World War led to his alienation from the Natioji forty- 
seven years after his first contribution appeared in it. Chris- 
tian Century and the Progressive then became the primary 
media for the voicing of Villard's opinions. 

In October of 1944, Villard suffered a heart attack in the 
office of his longtime friend Norman Thomas, and from that 
time until his death five years later, on October i, 1949, he 
was able to do very little writing. 

Oswald Garrison Villard may not have been a truly great 
editor; this, it would seem, is debatable. It should be noted 
also that he was neither a political theorist nor a philosopher 
in that he made no attempt to create a complete system of 
political thought. The fact remains, however, that he was 

14 Villard, Liberal of the i(}20^s 

one of the best known political journalists in the United 
States in the 1918-32 period, and he was one of the few out- 
spoken, crusading liberals of his time. Villard's causes, as 
will be seen in subsequent pages, embraced most of the great 
controversies of the first half of the twentieth century, and 
his record for genuine liberalism has not been surpassed. 

A journalist in an era of disillusionment with democracy 
and of postwar reaction, Villard was an acute observer of 
the world of which he was a part; he was an interpreter of 
the political and social scene; and he attempted to correct 
the political and social evils or abuses of his day. In so doing 
he did much to define and defend the liberal position of the 


American Liberal T^radition 

The term liberalism has acquired two seemingly contra- 
dictory meanings. Historically and in the broader sense it 
refers to that movement which emphasized the abuse of 
political power and thus was concerned with the individual's 
freedom from governmental restraint and ecclesiastical tyr- 
anny. This movement realized its greatest potential in con- 
stitutional democracy standing opposed to autocracy, des- 
potism, and tyranny. It concentrated on securing political 
freedom and, through free trade and removal of the hin- 
drances to industry left by the survival of feudal regulations, 
limiting the interference of the state in economic affairs. In 
this sense it is rightly identified with the rise of democracy 
and of capitalism as they developed in Britain, France, and 
the United States in opposition to the feudalism and aris- 
tocracy of Europe's past. 

There is, however, a stream of thought which may be 
said to constitute liberalism within liberalism — that more 
liberal element within an already democratic or liberal, as 
the term is used above, society. Almost a century ago, 
Walter Bagehot, an exceptionally keen observer of British 
politics, called attention to the fact that there are always 
two principal forces operative in politics everywhere — a 


1 6 Villard, Liberal of the 1^26*5 

conservative and an innovating or revolutionary force — and 
that consequently the political world, whatever may be its 
boundaries, is divided into two camps: the conservative em- 
bodying the inheritance of the past on the right, and the 
liberal facing the necessity of the present and hopes for the 
future on the left. 

In an America which had no feudal past, historic liberal- 
ism became conservatism, a conservatism identified with the 
defense of the status quo which tends to contain liberty 
within a traditional pattern rather than embrace new acquisi- 
tions to liberty. Liberalism, on the other hand, considers 
the present and the future as well as the past and sponsors 
innovation and reform. It is a liberalism possible in those 
societies which, in the words of Lord Balfour, are composed 
of a people so fundamentally at one that they can safely 
afford to bicker. To elaborate, it might be noted that while 
conservatism and liberalism may be contrasted, they are 
not essentially antithetic. American liberals and conserva- 
tives both, for example, are concerned with civil liberties; 
both would defend our basic political institutions; both 
desire to preserve economic opportunity. They differ, for 
the most part, over extensions of liberties, of the consent of 
the governed, and of economic opportunity and over meth- 
ods of achieving particular social objectives. The American 
conservative, fearing political power, tends to view govern- 
mental action as dangerous to freedom. The liberal, fearing 
economic power and surrounded by its growing concentra- 
tion, seeks refuge in state action. 

That tradition in American social history which may be 
characterized as recent American liberalism, and with which 
this volume is concerned, dates from about 1865. It is a 


American Liberal Tradition 17 

liberalism which has demanded a positive program of gov- 
ernmental action to achieve certain social, economic, and 
political ends; one which has embraced social justice as well 
as the juridical and political institutions which make the 
liberal state. Thus recent jVmerican liberalism may be said 
to have had its beginnings with the Grangers, Greenbackers, 
and Populists and to have proceeded through progressivism, 
the New Freedom, and the New Deal. 

It should perhaps be noted here that the conservative- 
liberal dichotomy in American politics has not always been 
represented by a strict divergence of the two major political 
parties. When the principal tenets of the two major parties 
have tended to coalesce, for example, the liberal elements 
have been found nurturing themselves either entirely out- 
side both parties, as, for instance, in the Populist or People's 
Party, or as defections from those parties such as the Pro- 
gressives of 191 2. Whether the liberal element in recent 
American politics has been found in the Democratic Party 
or in defections from the Republican Party, or again in 
third parties, it has been based on the same underlying prin- 
ciples. Both the Square Deal of Republican Theodore Roo- 
sevelt and the New Deal of Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt 
were sets of ideas concerning various aspects of social or- 
ganization and governmental policy. These two sets of ideas 
had something in common which caused them both to be 
typified as liberal. The crucial question is, "What makes 
them characteristically liberal?" Recent liberalism has after 
all embraced a variety of so-called causes — civil liberties, 
national self-determination, free trade, pacifism, and hu- 
manitarian reform, to mention only a few. Underlying these 
causes are certain fundamental principles which constitute 

1 8 Villard, Liberal of the ip2o's 

the liberal formula and thus shape the rationale for their 
adoption and consequently for the attachment of the "lib- 
eral" label to them. 

The isolation, analysis, and synthesis of these principles 
are vital to a clear understanding of American liberalism and 
to the study of liberal manifestations in any given period 
of history. Strangely enough, little attempt has been made 
by analysts of American liberalism to do so. Too many have 
been content to write liberalism oif as an attitude or a state 
of mind. Few writers have joined John Dewey in a deliberate 
attempt to attribute philosophic content, clear-cut or not, 
to recent American liberalism and to consider it as a con- 
scious and aggressive movement. 

Any attempt at such an analysis would need to recognize 
first and foremost that liberalism is rooted in humanism, a 
philosophy which sets up as the chief end of human en- 
deavor the happiness, freedom, and progress of all mankind. 
But American liberalism is highly individualistic. It places 
the human personality (existence as a self-conscious being) 
at the center of its system of values. It is devoted to the 
supreme worth and dignity of the individual man and stands 
for his fullest and freest development. It insists that the 
individual maintain his personal freedom, obey his own con- 
science, and not be content to be a mere item in the multi- 
tude. It is this individualistic factor in American liberalism 
which is responsible for the belief that the most important 
criterion for measuring the success or failure of social or- 
ganization and institutions is their effect on the destiny of 
the individual. The function of the liberal becomes that 
of translating into political reality those opportunities with- 

American Liberal Tradition 19 

out which men cannot attain their fullest potential. Indi- 
vidualism in turn embraces several related doctrines, namely 
rationalism, libertarianism, and humanitarianism. 

In its appeal to reason, American liberalism has been an 
appeal to the reason of the common man rather than to that 
of a select few. It recognizes that men must live together 
in organized society and that the society itself helps to 
shape their destiny. It assumes that men are sufficiently rea- 
sonable to meet the necessity of modifying those social 
institutions which they feel do not operate to the best inter- 
ests of human welfare. It assumes further that they are 
reasonable enough to do so without resort to violence, 
through deliberation rather than reliance on the arbitrary 
force of governmental authority. Recognizing that political 
power necessarily exists in any organized society, the Ameri- 
can liberal is concerned with both its use and its abuse. 
Assuming that each individual is rational enough to share 
in the governmental process, the liberal is concerned with 
enlarging his opportunity to do so, thus enlarging his op- 
portunity to direct the use to which government is put. 
His emphasis on the rationality of human beings and human 
institutions imposes upon the liberal categorical opposition 
to the exercise of unlimited power. 

In its more strictly libertarian aspect, American liberalism 
has become identified with the defense of individual civil 
liberties. The American liberal still believes that certain 
rights are inviolable, not only as means for the realization 
of other values but as values in themselves. Man is entitled 
to certain rights by virtue of his capacity for independent 
thought and action. Thus rights become the legal recogni- 
tion of the worth of human personality. The American 
liberal, however, is not content with the mere legal form of 

20 Villard, Liberal of the i^20^s 

individual rights. He has been so insistent on the living sub- 
stance of such rights that he has been accused of becoming 
professional in his search for their violation. He recognizes 
that self-government is meaningless and individualism and 
rationalism are prostrate without freedom of thought and 
expression, a free press, and free assembly. It follows natu- 
rally that the liberal has been insistent on tolerance and 
tenacious in his defense of minorities. An ever-present con- 
cern is that minorities shall be enabled to become majorities. 

The American liberal has extended his concern over civil 
rights to include protection against abuse by private indi- 
viduals as well as protection against the encroachment of 
government. The American liberal would increase the scope 
of governmental activity in this area. President Truman 
expressed this point of view when he said that "the extension 
of civil rights today means not protection of the people 
against the Government but protection of the people by the 
Government." ^ 

The doctrine of individual rights has undergone for Amer- 
ican liberals another extension — one which has created new 
rights for the individual, new rights which tend to re-enforce 
the traditional. Historically, humanitarianism and libertari- 
anism have been closely related doctrines. The American 
liberal would seriously question the value of the individual's 
right to freedom of thought and expression if that indi- 
vidual were denied, overtly or otherwise, a fair opportunity 
to a minimum of education. Freedom of the press, the 
liberal would hold, is meaningless to those unable to read. 
The liberal contends that those social measures which tend 
to ameliorate poverty and ignorance operate to enlarge the 
individual's freedom. The individual becomes free to do 

^New York Times, June 30, 1947, p. 3, col. i. 

American Liberal Tradition 21 

and enjoy things unavailable to him if the attainment of 
certain social conditions are left to his own or private initia- 
tive. Thus the liberal conception of liberty is one that em- 
braces every aspect and phase of human life — liberty of 
thought, of expression, and of cultural opportunity and the 
belief that such liberty is not to be had without a degree of 
economic security. The American concept of liberty then 
has been expanded to include positive as well as negative free- 
doms — freedom "to" as well as freedom "from." It has been 
extended to include such new rights as that of security from 
economic hazards over which the individual has no control, 
and the right to organize and bargain collectively. 

Based on the individualistic premise that a person is en- 
titled to respect simply because he is a living human being, 
and recognizing that the individual is subject to conditions 
beyond his control which are the responsibility of society, 
American liberalism committed itself to the use of govern- 
mental power to remedy those evils, environmental and eco- 
nomic, from which the less fortunate classes suffer. To this 
extent, it is indeed humanitarian. 

This, then, is the philosophic content of American liberal- 
ism. From a fundamentally humanistic base, it has embodied 
individualism, rationalism, libertarianism, and humanitarian- 
ism. In its practical application of these precepts, American 
liberalism has appealed, through the government, for collec- 
tive social action. It has demanded a positive program of 
governmental action to provide the conditions — economic, 
political, and other — which would give the common man 
the opportunity to realize the essential dignity to which he 
is by nature entitled. It is in its philosophic content and in 
its method of social engineering that the consistency and 
continuity of American liberalism is to be found. 

2 2 Villard, Liberal of the ip20^s 

While American liberalism may appear historically to have 
stood for different things at different times, actually it has 
been its specific, concrete programs or policies which have 
changed from time to time to meet new challenges. Its under- 
lying values have remained much the same. Consider the 
concept of liberty which is, after all, basic to historic liberal- 
ism. The abstract concept is always valid, but its concrete 
application is relative to any given situation which contains 
institutions deemed oppressive or totalitarian. 

Historically, then, the task of American liberals has been 
that of relating liberal values to the solution of contemporary 
problems. More recent American liberalism may be said 
to have its inception in movements dealing with the effects 
of industrialization and the accompanying concentration of 
wealth. The inequities of the economic system have been 
the cardinal point of liberal activity from the late iSoo's 
until at least the Second World War. 

In addition to, and not totally unrelated to, his preoccupa- 
tion with economic abuses, has been the liberal's concern 
for more democratic political institutions. His demand for 
new means of political control, his absorption with economic 
problems, and the manner in which he related his liberal 
values to the solution of those problems may be illustrated 
in a brief sketch of the evolution of recent American reform 

In the latter decades of the nineteenth century, protest 
against conservative control of the government by both 
major parties expressed itself in a variety of movements. 
Twentieth-century American liberalism had its inception 
in the activities of Grangers, Greenbackers, and Populists. 

American Liberal Tradition 23 

These agrarian reformers formed the vanguard of twentieth- 
century liberals. The Grangers, in their pressure for rail- 
road and warehouse regulation in the 1870's, set the stage 
for the issue of the railroad and the trust questions of the 
next fifty years. C 

The Greenbackers, in their attempt to come to grips with 
falling prices and unemployment, focused attention on the 
inelasticity characteristic of the financial system and on 
currency instability. The former was not met squarely until 
the Federal Reserve Act of 19 13, and the latter is still a mat- 
ter of serious concern. 

The Populists, cultivating soil already tilled by the 
Grangers and Greenbackers, went much farther in their 
economic program. They not only campaigned for gov- 
ernment ownership of railroads, for control of the stock 
and bond issues of public service corporations, and for free 
coinage of silver, but for compensation to labor for indus- 
trial accidents, for a graduated income tax, and for tariffs 
for revenue only. The Populists coupled their economic 
reforms with political reforms. They urged the Australian 
ballot, corrupt practices legislation, the establishment of 
primary elections to replace conventions and caucuses, the 
direct election of United States Senators, the initiative, and 
the referendum. In short, the Populists were concerned with 
furthering democracy — political as well as economic. They 
recognized that the powerful and often corrupt economic 
interests could better be controlled when the people had 
assumed more control over their government. 

Underlying all of the reform movements of the late 18 go's 
was a common theory — that of individual rights. Implicit in 
the Granger resolve that the conduct of the railroads be 
made to serve the public interest was the belief that the 

24 Villard, Liberal of the ip20^s 

individual's right to liberty, equality of opportunity, and 
the pursuit of happiness was in some way being violated. 
The Populist protest was a protest against social injustice 
and violations of the dignity of the human being. The 
Populists, spiritual descendants of the Grangers, contrasted 
their traditional idea of America (as the land of opportunity, 
the land of the self-made man, free from class distinctions 
and from the power of wealth) with the existing America 
and found it sadly wanting. The agrarian agitation of the 
seventies, eighties, and nineties represented a revolt against 
the power of urban industrial enterprise. It sought to protect 
the American tradition of individualism and equality against 
the social and economic forces by which these were threat- 
ened. It relied for method upon attaining more democratic 
political institutions and turning those institutions to the 
task of control and protection. 

However, while the Grangers, Greenbackers, and Popu- 
lists contributed significantly to the basic legislation and 
philosophy of government regulation of business, they 
formed for the most part only vociferous minorities, gather- 
ing strength mainly from the rural Midwest and South. It 
remained for Bryanism to nationalize populism. Bryan 
touched hands with both the populism of the nineteenth 
century and the progressivism of the twentieth. In Bryan 
the unrest of both the rural and urban population began 
to coalesce. Believing in equal rights for all men and special 
privileges for none, he advocated bimetallism, a lower tariff, 
the regulation or destruction of monopoly, an income tax, 
direct election of United States Senators, and even govern- 
ment ownership of railroads. 

It was not, however, until after the turn of the century 
that liberal reform gained respectability in the eyes of a 

American Liberal Tradition 25 

majority of the people, thereby making the whole move- 
ment of significance in American history and tradition. It 
was in the early years of the century that the conditions 
of urban life, employment on a large scale, and the power of 
economic concentration began to be directly felt by a ma- 
jority of the population. Only then was the liberal move- 
ment enabled to become a middle-class movement. 

Progressivism virtually swept the country in the first 
decades of the 1900's. The spade work was done first in 
single states, then nationally. Reform of the machinery of 
state governments took the form of acceptance of the direct 
primary, initiative, referendum, and recall. Women's suf- 
frage, the direct election of United States Senators, and 
the shorter ballot were also part of the movement to make 
government more responsive and more responsible to the 
populace. In terms of legislation to meet social and eco- 
nomic problems, agitation in the states supported industrial 
safety legislation, workmen's compensation laws, prohibi- 
tion of child labor, and minimum wage standards. 

On the national scene in 1901, Theodore Roosevelt was 
suggesting more efi^ective regulation of trusts, extension of 
the powers of the Interstate Commerce Commission, con- 
servation of natural resources, and extension of the Civil 
Service. Four years later he was paying lip service, at least, 
to the enforcement of antitrust legislation, currency and 
banking reform, and federal control of child labor. By 19 10, 
Roosevelt was speaking out for supervision of the financial 
structure of all corporations engaged in interstate com- 
merce, graduated income and inheritance taxes, workmen's 
compensation laws, the regulation of woman as well as child 
labor, and a more extensive conservation program. He was 
also urging the adoption of the initiative, referendum, and 

26 Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 

recall, direct primaries, and restraints on the power of the 

The liberal assault of this first decade of the twentieth 
century was largely verbal. True, some headway was made 
in terms of national legislation: the Hepburn, Meat Inspec- 
tion, Pure Food, and Employer's Liability acts for example. 
For the most part, however, the Progressives were unable 
to achieve much in the way of concrete action. The period 
is significant because liberal progressivism, with its roots 
back in the agrarian movements of the seventies, eighties, 
and nineties, was gathering momentum. Progressivism was 
a more articulate, a more systematic, and a more universal 
movement than any of its immediate predecessors. While 
there may be some questions about the genuineness of Theo- 
dore Roosevelt's liberalism, and while his contributions in 
the form of concrete action may not have been quantita- 
tively large, there is no question that he inspired and en- 
couraged liberals, helped popularize their doctrines, and 
had a tremendous appeal to the middle class throughout 
the nation. The Progressive movement itself represented a 
revolt against the control of government by corporate 
wealth and fear of the consequences of this control for tradi- 
tional values in the United States. Its concern was for the 
freedom of the individual in the face of encroachments by 
big business, for the dignity of the human being in a sys- 
tem characterized by poverty in the midst of plenty, and 
for the opportunity of the individual to help shape his own 

The Progressive technique was that of recapturing con- 
trol of political democracy and turning it to the task of 
regaining a measure of economic and social democracy. It 
remained for Woodrow Wilson to transform the abstract 

American Liberal Tradition 27 

of the liberal movement into more concrete manifestations. 
The striking characteristic of Wilson's New Freedom was 
that it marked the beginning of federal governmental regu- 
lation on an appreciable scale. The New Freedom came to 
embrace a variety of social reforms — lower tariffs in the 
Underwood Tariff Act, banking and currency reforms in 
the Federal Reserve Act, the regulation of business prac- 
tices through the Clayton Anti-Trust and Fair Trade acts. 
In addition, there was legislation to ameliorate the condi- 
tions of farmers, merchant seamen, child laborers, and rail- 
road workers. Specifically, this legislation included the Farm 
Loan Act of 1916, the La Follette Seamen's Act, the Adam- 
son Act, and the Keating-Owen Child Labor Act. The 
social legislation of the Wilson period has been character- 
ized as having a dual theme — the steady growth in the value 
placed upon individual human personality and the shifting 
of the idea of the public good from the security of the state 
and established order to the welfare of the mass of the peo- 
ple. As such, Wilson's New Freedom was firmly rooted in 
the philosophy as well as the method of the Grangers, Green- 
backers, Populists, and Progressives who preceded him. 

But Wilson also brought something new to the American 
liberal tradition in this period — the injection of democratic 
morality into the relations among nations. Wilson attempted 
to guarantee in the international sphere the same degree of 
morality and economic freedom that he sought to establish 
on the domestic scene. The First World War was to give 
Wilson occasion to express his international idealism. The 
role the United States assumed during the conflict provided 
him with the opportunity to give concrete form to this 
idealism. Desire for peace and pacifism — the maintenance 
of peace without recourse to war — are good liberal doc- 

2 8 Villard, Liberal of the trio's 

trines. Underlying each are the humanitarian and rational- 
ist principles of liberalism. For three long years, amidst 
pressures on every side, Wilson professed to keep the liberal 
faith. While the United States remained, in varying degrees, 
neutral, Wilson offered to mediate among the warring 
powers, urged a peace conference, and advocated a league 
to enforce or protect that peace. When Wilson finally com- 
mitted the United States to war, it was on the side of "right." 
He saw the conflict as one between good and evil, between 
morality and immorality, and, in his philosophical justifica- 
tion for the entrance of the United States, saw no incon- 
sistency with liberal tenets: 

It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into 
war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, 
civilization itself seeming to be in the balance. But the 
right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for 
the things which we have always carried nearest our 
hearts, for democracy, for the right of those who submit 
to authority to have a voice in their own Governments, 
for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal 
dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as 
shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the 
world itself at last free.^ 

In his Fourteen Points message to Congress, Wilson at- 
tempted to spell out more precisely his hopes for the out- 
come of the war. His Fourteen Points embraced open cove- 
nants, self-determination of nations, removal of economic 
barriers between nations, and an association of nations to 

2 Albert Shaw (ed.). The Messages and Papers of Woodroiv 
Wilson (New York: George H. Doran Co., 1924), I, 382-83. 

American Liberal Tradition 29 

guarantee political independence and territorial integrity. 

In view of Wilson's achievements on behalf of liberalism, 
it seems ironical that his administration should have ended 
on a note of reaction. Such was the case, however, and the 
atmosphere of the country in 1920 was characteristic of 
the entire decade which followed. It was a decade of reac- 
tion against internationalism, of disillusionment with de- 
mocracy, and of the materialism of prosperity. Coupled 
with this reaction was a lack of liberal leadership. The 
postwar period saw the death of the outstanding leaders 
of the liberal movement — first, Theodore Roosevelt; then, 
Woodrow Wilson; followed by Robert M. La Follette; and, 
lastly, William Jennings Bryan. Their passing seemed to 
many to emphasize the end of a political epoch. In 1920, 
Oswald Garrison Villard wrote in the Nation that "we 
have witnessed not the beginning of a new era of liberal 
domestic reform of which Woodrow Wilson seemed to be 
the prophet; we have witnessed the end of the old system 
and have no exact light as to just what shape the new is to 
take." The spirits of most liberals throughout the twenties 
were disheartened and were not to be revived until they 
had first hit a new low, resulting from the stock market 
crash of 1929 with its accompanying misery and degrada- 
tion for millions of people. Out of the crash, however, was 
to come new hope for the liberals and a fresh impetus to the 
American liberal tradition in the name of the New Deal. 

There was little new about the premises upon which the 
New Deal was based — recognition of the abuses of cor- 
porate wealth and the inadequacies of the economic and 
financial systems; the use of governmental authority to inter- 
vene in the interests of mass welfare and the adaptation 
of governmental machinery to this end; and, eventually, 

30 Villard, Liberal of the i^zd's 

acceptance of the interdependence of nations and American 
leadership in world affairs — and all had a familiar ring. They 
were reminiscent of populism, progressivism, and the New 
Freedom, In embracing domestic measures dealing with such 
subjects as conservation, social security, increased regula- 
tion of transportation and public utilities, aid to agriculture, 
labor legislation, reform of banking and stock market prac- 
tices, and an attack against big business and monopoly, the 
New Deal was echoing voices of the past such as Bryan, 
La FoUette, Theodore Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson — 
champions of the American liberal tradition. Franklin Roo- 
sevelt's ultimate objectives and method were similar to 
theirs, namely, the restoration of traditional American values 
within the context of the democratic process. Roosevelt 
sought not the imposition of a new economic and political 
system but rather a system of private enterprise subject to 
such regulations imposed by democratic processes as were 
necessary to provide freedom and opportunity for a ma- 
jority of the American people. 

In the international sphere, Roosevelt followed Wilsonian 
concepts. While Wilson's hopes and ambitions in this area 
were far from realized in his time, the internationalism he 
nurtured was to become a permanent aspect of American 
liberalism. At least one of his hopes was to become a reality 
through Roosevelt's efforts. American participation in an 
international organization devoted to the maintenance of 
world peace and security is now an accomplished fact; and 
this same organization has adopted a creed which shows 
a striking parallel to that of American liberalism from the 
1870's on. It reaffirms "faith in fundamental human rights, 
in the dignity and worth of the human person," and it 
dedicates itself to the "promotion of the economic and social 

American Liberal Tradition 31 

advancement of all peoples." The method, too, is that of 
the American liberal — the use of governmental machinery, 
in this instance international machinery, to achieve the de- 
sired ends. 

Thus the course of American liberalism in the period 
from the late 1800's to the late 1930's — roughly a half cen- 
tury — was one of steady development interrupted only by 
the seeming eclipse of liberalism during the twenties. It is 
to a consideration of that decade that the remainder of this 
volume is devoted, for the breath of liberalism had not 
been completely snuffed out by World War I and the usual 
postwar reaction. Moreover, in its values and in its methods 
it displayed a close affinity to the more distinct and popular 
movements which were its predecessors and immediate suc- 
cessor. As John Chamberlain remarked so adequately in 
his Farewell to Reform, "A broad social movement always 
has a deep continuity, which, though it may go under- 
ground for a time, must inevitably be present for the tap- 
ping if the imaginations of men are to be touched." ^ 

Liberalism ivas present in the twenties, and all of its cham- 
pions were not driven underground. A few were most vo- 
ciferous. Among these was Oswald Garrison Villard, who, 
as an outspoken liberal in the twenties, seemed out of tune 
with his times. It was once said of him that he did not 
belong to that decade at all. Harold Laski has commented 
that Villard seemed to combine "the remains of the spirit 
of Theodore Roosevelt's Progressivism with a sympathy 
for the objectives of Bryan's Populisrti." * Freda Kirchwey, 

2 John Chamberlain, Farewell To Reform (New York: 
Liveright Publishing Corp., 1932), p. 201. 

^ Harold Laski, The American Democracy (New York: The 
Viking Press, Inc., 1948), p. 650. 

32 Villard, Liberal of the i^zo^s 

Villard's successor on the Nation, claims that he called for 
a New Deal program before Roosevelt was even in the 
capitol in Albany. But the Progressive movement had ended, 
and the New Deal had not yet begun. Villard, it seemed, 
was betwixt and between in his political outlook. Herein 
lies his value to the liberal cause. As has been said of Bryan, 
Theodore Roosevelt, La Follette, and Woodrow Wilson, 
so might it also be said of Villard that he was one who 
touched hands with the past and in his turn helped "to 
create a situation, in terms of word and deed, calling for 
new systematic thinkers, new pathologists of the democratic 
spirit." ^ 

^Chamberlain, op. cit., pp. 200-201. 


A LihcraVs Concern for 
Individual Freedoms 

The core of liberalism, historically, has been liberty or free- 
dom. It was in the hope of achieving freedom that po- 
litical democracies were born. The objective was a form 
of government best suited to guarantee to the individual 
maximum freedom from arbitrary and unlimited authority. 
Self-government seemed to offer the best solution. 

Long considered a basic condition of successful self- 
government has been freedom of thought and expression. 
Only through the free exchange of information, ideas, and 
opinions can intelligent and wise decisions be made by those 
who were intended to be the ultimate source of political 
power. So long has free speech, press, and assembly been 
recognized as vital if self-government is to be more than 
just an empty form that Oswald Garrison Villard, writing 
in the mid-twenties, was moved to comment; "My subject 
is such an old one as to make it a ground for wonderment 
that in this day and generation we should still have to be 
making pleas for freedom of thought and freedom of the 
press." Villard reaffirmed their necessity to the maintenance 
of self-government. "There is only one way to safeguard 


34 Villard, Liberal of the i^zd^s 

the Republic to which we all are so devoted," he declared. 
"Give us a free press, and free vehicles of expression for 
every possible suggestion or proposal for the advancement 
of our national life. Shut up the streams of criticism, censor 
free public expression in the arts and in letters, muzzle the 
press, and we shall be on the road to autocracy, tyranny, 
oppression and wholesale corruption in the shortest possible 

This free flow of ideas to which Villard was devoted 
necessitates tolerance. It was tolerance which Voltaire was 
voicing in the statement attributed to him, "I abhor every 
word you say but I shall defend to the death your right to 
say it." It was tolerance which John Stuart Mill was voicing 
in that famous passage, "If all mankind minus one, were of 
one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opin- 
ion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that 
one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified 
in silencing mankind." To Oswald Villard it was tolerance 
that was the mark of the true liberal. "What is liberalism?" 
he asked rhetorically of Princeton's Cliosophic Society. 
"How shall it be defined? I have met complete reactionaries 
who wished to lock up everybody who disagreed with them 
yet still insisted that they were genuine progressives. . . . 
Liberalism means above all else tolerance .... It means 
the readiness to pay a price for . . . liberty by freely toler- 
ating license and not only license but bad taste and folly 
in public utterances as well!" 

But liberty, it seems, is never completely won. Each gen- 
eration must win it anew. The generation that came of age 
in the years 1918-32 was no exception. It came to maturity 
in the aftermath of the extreme nationalism and intolerance 
which accompanied World War I. The wartime espionage 

A Liberal's Concern for Individual Freedoms 35 

and sedition laws of the national government had given rise 
to a new class of prisoners, namely political, and to the 
imprisonment of conscientious objectors. State intervention 
in freedom of expression was manifested through peacetime 
sedition, criminal syndicalism, and red flag laws; through 
such inquisitions as that carried on by New York's Lusk 
Committee; and through such persecutions of radicals as 
characterized the Sacco and Vanzetti case. The intolerance 
of the twenties which found all dissenters subversive was 
not restricted to the state and national governments. De- 
mands for conformity were made on every side. Viola- 
tions of freedom of conscience were indulged by individuals 
and by such private organizations as the Daughters of the 
American Revolution, the Ku Klux Klan, and the American 

One believing as strongly as did Oswald Villard in free- 
dom of thought and expression could only find these abuses 
profoundly disconcerting. Throughout the period he was 
to wage battle continuously, courageously, and with single- 
mindedness of purpose against its manifestations of intoler- 
ance and consequent suppression of opinion. 

Only a few weeks after the United States entered the First 
World War, Congress passed, for the first time since 1789, 
an Espionage Act. The most significant provisions of the act 
were those found in the paragraph which provided that 

Whoever, when the United States is at war, shall willfully 
make or convey false reports or false statements with 
intent to interfere with the operation or success of the 
military or naval forces of the United States or . . . shall 

36 Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 

willfully cause or attempt to cause insubordination, dis- 
loyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty, in the military or 
naval forces of the United States, or shall willfully ob- 
struct the recruiting or enlistment service of the United 
States, . . . shall be punished by a fine of not more than 
$10,000 or imprisonment for not more than twenty years, 
or both. 

The Epsionage Act became law on June 15, 191 7 and was 
amended eleven months later by what came to be known 
as the Sedition Act of May 16, 1918. The Sedition Act added 
"attempts to obstruct" to the provision of the Espionage 
Act relating to the recruitment or enlistment service and 
created additional offenses, such as saying or doing anything 
with intent to obstruct the sale of United States bonds; 
uttering, printing, writing, or publishing any disloyal, pro- 
fane, scurrilous, or abusive language, or language intended 
to cause contempt, scorn, contumely, or disrepute as regards 
the form of government of the United States, or the Con- 
stitution, or the flag, or the uniform of the Army or Navy; 
advocating, teaching, defending, or suggesting the doing of 
any of these acts. 

As is apparent on even a cursory reading, almost anything 
said against the war or against the conduct of the war was 
punishable under the Espionage and Sedition laws. Under 
this legislation, 1,956 cases were commenced and 877 per- 
sons were convicted.^ Most of these persons were Socialists, 
leaders of the Industrial Workers of the World, or others 
who disapproved of the war on ideological grounds. The 
two best-known of those prosecuted under these acts were 

1 Zechariah Chafee, Jr., free Speech in the United States 
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1941), p. 52 n. 

A Liber aVs Concern for Individual Freedoms 37 

Eugene Debs, leader of the Socialist Party and its presi- 
dential candidate, and Victor Berger, a founder of the So- 
cialist Party in the United States and its first representative 
in the United States Congress. 

Among its administrative provisions, this legislation gave 
the Postmaster General the power tg exclude from the mails 
anything which, in his judgment, violated the acts. It is 
quite possible that, because of this provision, freedom of 
press suffered even more than freedom of speech during 
the war. Various journals were excluded from the mails. 
Some, like Socialist Victor Berger's Milwaukee Leader, were 
permanently excluded by having their second-class mailing 
privilege revoked. In other cases, as in that involving Os- 
wald Villard's Natioji, only single issues were banned from 
the mails. On some occasions Postmaster General Albert S. 
Burleson acted on such dubious grounds as adverse criticism 
of the British Empire or urging that more money be raised 
by taxes and less by loans. 

Villard relates in his Fighting Years that at the very outset 
Burleson made it known that every Socialist paper in the 
country was in danger of suppression and that Burleson's 
solicitor, Lamar, admitted that pro-Germanism, pacifism, 
and "high-browism" were also to be objects of suppression. 
According to Villard, Lamar was heard to remark, "You 
know I am not working in the dark on this censorship thing. 
I know exactly what I am after. I am after three things and 
only three things — pro-Germanism, pacifism, and 'high- 
browism.' I have been watching that paper [New Republic^ 
for months; I haven't got anything on them yet, but I shall 
one of these days." ^ 

If these were Lamar's main targets, then it was only natu- 

2 Quoted by Villard, Fighting Years, p. 357. 

38 Villard, Liberal of the ip20^s 

ral that Villard, of German extraction and a pacifist, and 
his Nation, enjoying wide circulation among intellectuals, 
would be suspect. The September 14, 19 18 issue of the 
Nation carried an editorial by Albert Nock criticizing the 
government's choice of American Federation of Labor 
President Samuel Gompers to travel throughout Europe 
and report on labor conditions there. Exercising his power 
under the Espionage Act, the Postmaster General banned 
the issue from the mails. Villard was told that criticism of 
Gompers would not be tolerated. "Mr. Gompers has ren- 
dered inestimable services to this government during this 
war in holding labor in line," Villard reports Solicitor 
Lamar as having said, "and while this war is on we are not 
going to allow any newspaper in this country to attack 
him." 3 On Villard's continued protest, Lamar suggested 
that he remove the offensive page from the Nation and the 
Post Office would then release it. Villard refused. He went, 
instead, to President Wilson's secretary, Joseph P. Tumulty, 
and Secretary of the Interior, Franklin K. Lane. At the next 
meeting of his Cabinet, Wilson ordered the Nation released. 
Thus rebuked, Lamar proceeded to issue a public state- 
ment in which he reported that an anonymous newspaper 
had suggested that all other newspapers refrain from re- 
printing the seditious utterances of the Nation. Villard was 
incensed. He wired Lamar: 

I deeply resent your statement given to the press this 
morning. At very moment you state Nation is in hands 
of Postmaster General for adjudication you give out a 
telegram from an anonymous morning newspaper urging 
that seditious utterances — like those of Reed, Nearing, 
and The Nation — be not given space in other newspapers. 
^ Ibid., p. 355. 

A LiberaVs Concern for Individual Freedoms 39 

No seditious or treasonable utterance has ever appeared 
in The Nation or ever will. I resent the base libel on me 
personally, but I resent more deeply the infringement on 
the right to criticize policies of the government — a right 
which is guaranteed by the constitution. How far this 
right clan be limited by arbitrary action of executive of- 
ficers is whole issue between us and no other.* 

The ban on the Nation was officially lifted on September 
18, and Villard was satisfied that not only was justice being 
done to the Natio?i but that the right of a free press to 
criticize government policies was thereby upheld. 

Villard was ever insistent that the right of the press to 
criticize governmental policy of necessity extended to times 
of crisis because of the enhanced power of the executive: 

History is against, and precedent, too, the theory that 
the press in war times shall either be speechless on foreign 
affairs, or merely the mouthpiece of the ruling powers. 
There are no statesmen and no rulers under any form of 
government, so wise, so just and so far-sighted, as to be 
beyond the need of the restraining power of enlightened 
journalistic criticism. Hence any situation that results in 
a country's press being moulded into one form by official 
act is fraught with danger, for the official then finds him- 
self without a single restraining influence, since in war 
time parliaments are invariably dominated by the execu- 

So far as Villard was concerned, when the press ceased to 
be critical of public officials, it failed to perform adequately 
its function in a democratic society. "It is commonplace," 
^Neiv York Times, Sept. 18, 1918, p. 24, col. 2. 

40 Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 

he told the Illinois Press Association, "that without a free 
press the Republic cannot survive. A press is not free which 
is captured by the glamour of public office or yields to the 
power of authority, any more than it is free if it seeks 
merely to serve big business or the interest of a single class." 

Villard himself was severely criticized on occasion be- 
cause of his failure to remain loyal to men in public office 
whom he had previously supported. The most striking ex- 
ample was his sharp and bitter criticism of Woodrow Wil- 
son. Villard had been one of Wilson's three closest advisors 
in the presidential campaign of 191 2. He later found him- 
self in disagreement with Wilson over such matters as 
United States participation in World War I, the Negro 
problem, woman suffrage, and amnesty for pohtical pris- 
oners. Villard, moreover, did not hesitate to voice his dis- 
appointment publicly. He subsequently felt moved to 
defend himself publicly. In an article in Forum, Villard 
maintained that the choice of an editor was between remain- 
ing loyal to principles or to men, and in his view a free and 
independent press depended upon the former: "But there 
was a choice between loyalty to a principle and loyalty — 
or rather, silence in regard to the act of a friend — ^which 
was exactly the same act as we had reprobated a hundred 
times in professional politicians. To have kept silence would 
have been disloyalty to the friend; it would also have in 
honor debarred us from criticising any similar act by any- 
body else." ^ 

It was Villard's further contention that a free and in- 
dependent press was vital to a two-party system. He in- 
sisted that such a system was "dependent for its health and 

5 "Loyalty and the Editor," Forum, LXXX (August, 1928), 

A Liberal's Concern for Individual Freedoms 41 

its progress upon an informed and enlightened electorate, 
constantly exposed to new and, if need be, unpopular ideas 
by a free, a fearless, and untrammeled press." Villard en- 
larged upon this thesis in a Harvard Crimson dinner address 
on March 26, 1932 when he complained that 

the business manager ... is the last to consider that his 
is a two-party system, based upon the theory that the 
electorate shall not only be well informed as to what is 
going on in the world, but shall have spread before it 
the conflicting political opinions of the rival parties in 
order that there may be that constant clash of opposing 
philosophies which the founders of our nation expected 
would keep political interest at its height, prevent grave 
political and governmental abuses, ensure reforms and 
progress, and preserve the personal and public liberties of 

For these reasons, Villard was concerned about the wide- 
spread consolidation which was taking place in the news- 
paper industry because of enormously increased costs of 
production. Some cities were left with only two newspapers 
and under such conditions there was little hope that all 
points of view would be brought to public attention. Villard 
could envision an even more critical situation. The Nevo 
York Ti?77es reports him as commenting that "it would not 
be unlikely for Henry Ford, because of great wealth, to 
buy up every paper in Michigan. Then the people of the 
whole state would draw all their political, social, and eco- 
nomic information from one source. How dangerous that 
would be!" 6 

^Neiv York Times, Feb. 2, 1925, p. 22, col. 2. 

42 Villard, Liberal of the i^zo^s 

Returning to the Espionage and Sedition acts, Villard 
was extremely anxious with the end of the war to have 
their victims released from jail. His fondest hope was for 
a general amnesty. Italy had granted one as early as Novem- 
ber 19, 1918; Germany had done so even before the armi- 
stice; and the French declared it on October 24, 19 19. Sen- 
tences under British espionage legislation were so short 
(none exceeding three years) that all of them expired before 

President Wilson, however, was intransigent on the sub- 
ject of a general amnesty, and pardons for political prisoners 
had to await the magnanimity of Presidents Harding and 
Coolidge. Villard's bitterness with Wilson was expressed 
in his report of the 1920 Democratic Convention in San 

Not all the pointing with pride that the platform makers 
at San Franciso can do will obscure the fact that under 
the administration of the author of the New Freedom, 
America imprisoned men with conscientious scruples 
against killing; that it sullied its noble record by creating 
a new class of prisoners — political prisoners after the man- 
ner of Czar and Kaiser .... Alas! Our experience in 
the war and its aftermath shows once more that you can- 
not lay violent hands upon the chastity of such goddesses 
as Justice, and Liberty and Righteousness and Freedom 
of Soul and then expect them to regain their pristine 

The case of Eugene Victor Debs was a cause celebre in 
the immediate postwar years. Debs was convicted under 

A Liber aVs Concern for Individual Freedoms 43 

the Espionage Act of attempting to cause insubordination 
in the Army and attempting to obstruct recruiting, although 
he had not actually provoked any such act. He was arrested 
for a speech made before a State Socialist Party convention 
in Canton, Ohio, on June 16, 19 18, iri^hich he condemned 
the war as capitalistic and called upon Socialists to do their 
duty and destroy capitalism. Debs's speech was not designed 
for soldiers, nor did he urge his listeners to resist the draft; 
yet the Supreme Court upheld the conviction and sentence, 
and Debs, at sixty-four years of age, began to serve a ten- 
year sentence on April 12, 191 9, five months after the 

All requests made of President Wilson to intervene on 
Debs's behalf failed. Wilson is said to have held greater 
resentment for Eugene Debs than for any other person who 
openly opposed his war policies. This may be explained in 
part by the fact that Debs, in pleading his own case at the 
trial, quoted freely from Wilson's own New Freedom. 
Villard claimed that it was with "utmost vindictiveness" 
that Wilson refused to release Debs from prison, even 
though several members of his own Cabinet so urged. Those 
who felt that Debs had been unjustly imprisoned were per- 
sistent in their attempts throughout 19 19, 1920, and 1921 
to effect his release. The Socialist Party did not desert him 
either. In 1920, for the fifth time Debs became the Socialist 
candidate for the Presidency. Running against Warren G. 
Harding (Republican), James Cox (Democrat), and Parley 
P. Christensen (Farmer-Laborite), Debs, from his prison cell 
in the Atlanta Penitentiary, garnered almost one milUon 
votes. In that year VUlard's Nation refused to choose be- 
tween the Republican and Democratic candidates and urged 

44 Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 

its readers to vote for either Debs or Christensen. Villard 
himself voted for Debs. The choice, as he put it, was be- 
tween "Debs and dubs." 

In April of 192 1, the use of Cooper Union was denied to 
a group wishing to hold a meeting on behalf of amnesty for 
Debs and other political prisoners. Now Cooper Union had 
long been a free forum. It was at Cooper Union that Abra- 
ham Lincoln on February 27, i860 gave his so-called 
"Cooper Union Address" which is credited with being 
largely instrumental in securing his nomination for the 
Presidency. It was at Cooper Union that Robert IngersoU 
made one of his earliest religious addresses attacking the 
Bible and where Virginia Woodhull defended the rights of 
women. It was from the rostrum of Cooper Union that 
many of the early labor organizers made fiery appeals on 
behalf of unionization. It was inconceivable to Villard that 
use of the hall be denied the amnesty group. The refusal 
had been made on the grounds that those calling the meet- 
ing were "disloyal." According to the trustees of Cooper 
Union, one had written an insolent letter to the President 
of the United States in the presidential campaign of 1916, 
and another member of the committee attempted to pledge 
young men not to volunteer for service in the Army and 
Navy should the United States go to war. Two others were 
candidates for office running upon the platform of the 
Socialist Party which the trustees regarded as distinctly dis- 
loyal. Villard wrote immediately to H. Fulton Cutting, one 
of the trustees: 

But are you not falling into a common error of con- 
fusing loyalty to the country with loyalty to a given 
undertaking of the administration that happened to be in 

A LiberaVs Concern for Individual Freedoms 45 

power? No one thinks of berating my grandfather, Wil- 
liam Lloyd Garrison, or James Russell Lowell, or Wendell 
Phillips, or Abraham Lincoln because they opposed the 
Mexican War, which they did most emphatically while 
the country was at war and our troops were fighting on 
hostile territory .... Our entrance into the world war 
marked a complete departure of policy for the country 
in that, for the first time in our existence, it became a 
crime to differ from the administration in power as to 
what was wisest and best for the people. 

It seems to me that if the same tolerance for the present 
day had been in existence in 1858-60 Abraham Lincoln 
would have been denied the use of Cooper Union. He, 
too, was striking at certain property rights .... Peter 
Cooper's idea, as I remember it, was to establish an open 
forum. If Cooper Union is to be lost for this purpose I 
for one shall feel that we must move for the creation of 
an endowment for a hall here in which every American 
shall have the right of free speech that is guaranteed to 
him by the constitution, controlled only by the laws 
governing the rights of speakers. 

Villard did what he could to aid and abet all efforts on 
behalf of Debs so long as they did not partake of violence. 
He, himself, took every opportunity to speak to persons in 
high government positions about Debs. In July of 192 1, 
with a group of editors which included William Allen 
White, he visited President Harding personally and pleaded 
for the release of all political prisoners. The President ad- 
mitted that Debs seemed to him a "kindly and good man" 
but that he was under pressure from the American Legion 
and others and that he simply could not consider releasing 

46 Villard, Liberal of the 1^26's 

Debs until the actual conclusion of a peace treaty with 

Needless to say, many of Debs's friends and followers 
were not content with Harding's position. Debs had then 
been in jail for two years, and they were becoming impa- 
tient with the lack of results from their efforts to free him. 
They tended to want to take more overt action on his be- 
half. Villard persistently warned against the use of violence. 
He wrote to one of Debs's followers, "I do sincerely hope 
that all thought of picketing will be promptly dropped. 
Anything else that is peaceful The Nation and I will support 
most heartily." When challenged about what could be done, 
all peaceful methods having failed, Villard admitted, "I 
hardly know what to advise." But he continued to urge 
peaceful means: "If there could be parades of protest in vari- 
ous cities large enough and esthetic enough to make an im- 
pression upon the public mind I should favor that plan. I 
know no other way but to continue to storm at the portals of 
the great by letters and petitions and delegations of protest 
until regular business is interfered with." 

True to his promise to release Debs upon the negotiation 
of an acceptable treaty with Germany, Warren Harding re- 
leased him on Christmas Day of 1921. 

The Espionage and Sedition laws of 19 17 and 1918 were 
applicable only in wartime, and in the postwar years there 
was agitation in Congress for a peacetime sedition law. In 
1919-20 the Congress had before it about seventy such bills, 
including one recommended by Attorney General A. Mitch- 
ell Palmer which went so far as to provide punishment for 
writings which "tend to indicate" sedition. Palmer, in an 
attempt to enlist the support of the press, sent to the editors 
of a leading magazine a circular letter in which he stated 
that his concern was for a menace abroad throughout the 

A Liberal's Concern for Individual Freedoms 47 

land. "My one desire," he claimed, "is to acquaint people 
like you with the real menace of evil-thinking which is 
the foundation of the Red movement." Viliard's Nation 
promptly published this letter of Palmer's and stood opposed 
to any peacetime sedition law which would, in Viliard's 
mind, "make individual liberty and individual rights more 
than ever the gift of capricious bureaucrats." 

Following a visit in 19 19 to Germany, where he observed 
at first hand the bloodshed accompanying civil war in both 
Munich and Berlin, Villard was more convinced than ever 
that ideas could not be eradicated by sending men to prison. 
"The United States Senate," he wrote from abroad, "which, 
according to press dispatches, believes that our government 
can best be secured in its present form by the enactment of 
a new espionage act, would do well to take a trip to Berlin 
at once. The Senators . . . would also learn things which 
might lead them to alter their views on . . . the value of 
prisons as checks to the spread of new ideas, be they for 
better or for worse." 

A vigorous stand by the American Newspaper Publisher's 
Association, of which Villard was a member, has been 
credited with having been a major influence in the failure 
of Congress to pass legislation in the twenties extending the 
Espionage and Sedition acts. Whatever may have been the 
cause, nothing comparable to them was enacted until the 
Alien Registration Act of 1940, which extended the provi- 
sions of the Espionage Act of 1917 to utterances in peace- 

In addition to federal wartime espionage and sedition 
legislation, similar and often more drastic legislation was 
enacted by the states. As many as thirty-three states did 

48 Villard, Liberal of the i^zd's 

what the federal government refrained from doing in the 
1920's — making sedition in peacetime punishable. The leg- 
islation most common to the states consisted of the criminal 
syndicalism and red flag laws. An almost uniform criminal 
syndicalism law was passed by seventeen states. That of 
California, which was typical, defined criminal syndicalism 
as "any doctrine or precept advocating, teaching or aiding 
and abetting the commission of crime, sabotage (which 
word is hereby defined as meaning willful and malicious 
physcial damage or injury to physical property), or unlaw- 
ful acts of force and violence or unlawful methods of terror- 
ism as a means of accomplishing a change in industrial 
ownership or control, or effecting any political change." 

It was not uncommon for the state criminal syndicalist 
laws to provide that imprisonment from one to fourteen 
years could be inflicted upon any person who advocated, 
taught, aided, or abetted criminal syndicalism; who willfully 
attempted to justify it; who published or circulated any 
written or printed matter advocating or advising it; who 
organized, assisted in organizing, or knowingly became a 
member of any group organized to advocate (without nec- 
essarily urging this doctrine himself); or who committed 
any act advocated by this doctrine with intent to effect a 
change in industrial ownership or any political change. 
Such legislation was sufficient to send any member of the 
Communist Party or other radical organization to prison. 
It was directed mainly, however, against the Industrial 
Workers of the World, who were accused of using the war 
crisis to bring about the downfall of the capitalistic system. 
The WobbHes, as members of the IWW were called, felt, 
as did the Socialists, that the war represented a sacrifice of 
working-class lives for the benefit of the wealthy capitalists, 

A Liberals Concern for Individual Freedoms 49 

and they did not hesitate to say so publicly. As a conse- 
quence, more than 1,000 Wobblies were imprisoned in the 
course of two years. 

Prosecutions under criminal syndicalism legislation were 
especially diligent in the State of California. In the five 
years following its enactment, until Aligust 15, 1924, 504 
persons were arrested and 264 actually tried. To Oswald 
Villard and other liberals throughout the country, many of 
these convictions under the California law seemed unjust. 
Villard wrote to the State Prison Board, in February of 
192 1, pleading for the release of 12 convicted I WW pris- 

As I understand it, not one of them has committed any 
deed of violence nor is charged with anything of the 
sort, but is merely convicted of membership in the 
I.W.W. and the circulating of literature of that organiza- 
tion. I am not at all in sympathy with the I.W.W., any 
more than I am with the Bolshevist agitators in America. 
I am not even a Socialist, but I do profoundly feel that 
when America begins to legislate against thought, it 
places itself squarely alongside of the Germany of Bis- 
marck in 1878 and the Russia of the Czar. 

In general terms, the so-called red flag laws, adopted in 
thirty-one states by 192 1, prohibited the display of the red 
flag as a symbol of institutions — social, political, or eco- 
nomic — not in conformity with those of the United States. 
California had both a red flag law and a criminal syndicalism 
law, as did the state of Washington, which also had a statute 
against anarchy. 

50 Villard, Liberal of the i^20^s 

New York State, in addition to a red flag law, established 
a legislative committee, popularly known as the Lusk Com- 
mittee, which employed a 1902 law against anarchy (passed 
after McKinley's assassination) to investigate seditious ac- 
tivities. The Lusk Committee interpreted its powers as 
virtually unlimited in scope. It functioned as a self-appointed 
police force, utilizing such devices as John Doe warrants, 
seizure of property, and surprise raids and arrests.'^ 

The Lusk Committee included in its investigations foreign 
language groups, labor unions, social service agencies, civic 
reform organizations, pacifist societies, and educational in- 
stitutions. Such well-known individuals as Jane Addams, 
Louis P. Lochner, and David Starr Jordan were investigated. 
Oswald Villard apparently had reason to suspect that he, 
too, might be under the watchful eye of the committee. Not 
one to be taken unawares, he addressed a letter to Senator 
Clayton R. Lusk, the committee chairman: "I hear your 
detectives are coming to hear me speak next Thursday 
night at the Pennsylvania Hotel. Unfortunately, I am not 
going to speak about Russia, and will only give to the 
audience there the report I made on food conditions in 
Germany to Mr. Hoover, Mr. Lansing and Mr. Lloyd 
George. But if your detectives still plan to come, I shall 
be glad to have them ask for me at the door and I will see 
that they are given front seats." To Villard, the activities 
of the Lusk Committee were proof that nothing had been 
learned from history. The Roman emperors, he once wrote, 
were as certain as Senator Lusk that "the application of brute 
force would forever end the particular heresies which they 
were combating. Christianity was to be stamped out by 
imprisonment and so are Socialism and Bolshevism." 

'''See Walter Gellhorn (ed.). The States and Subversion 
(Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1952). 

A LiberaVs Concern for Individual Freedoms 51 

In addition to its red flag law, the state of Connecticut 
passed a drastic sedition law which punished any person 
who spoke, wrote, printed, exhibited publicly or distributed 
disloyal, scurrilous, or abusive matter concerning the form 
of government of the United States, its military forces, flags, 
or uniforms. This legislation also covered persons who pub- 
lished or circulated any matter which was intended to bring 
these items into contempt or which created or fostered 
opposition to organized government. The California, New 
York, and Connecticut legislation noted above is significant 
here for two reasons: first, because Villard took particular 
note of it; second, because it was characteristic of state leg- 
islation throughout the country which was turned against 
radicals of every hue — International Workers of the World, 
Socialists, Communists, anarchists — few were to escape the 
Red scare of the twenties. To Oswald Villard, such legisla- 
tion clearly represented widespread suppression of thought 
and expression. He was shocked by what he considered the 
violation of American tradition: 

Americans jailed merely for their opinion? Who in the 
United States of 1900 would have deemed it possible? At 
that time it was the historic, well-cherished American 
doctrine that whatever a man thought, whatever he 
preached, whatever organization he belonged to, he was 
free to express his views, free to parade his membership 
in any alliance or society, free to hold any theories he 
cared to without any interference by the State or any 
minor authority whatsoever. Only for an overt act could 
he be held responsible, such as breach of peace or a physi- 
cal assault upon the Government. This was the funda- 
mental theory upon which the American republic was 

52 Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 

Villard went on to point out that to silence the voices of 
radicalism might well shut off progress. "The radical reform 
of today," he argued, "is usually the accepted custom of 
tomorrow," and he referred to the enfranchisement of 
women as a case in point. 

The same atmosphere of fear and hysteria, of nationalism 
and intolerance, which gave rise to the state syndicalism 
and espionage laws and New York's Lusk Committee 
touched the judicial proceedings surrounding the prosecu- 
tion of a murder in South Braintree, Massachusetts, in 1920. 
The United States Congress had, on October 16, 191 8, passed 
a bill authorizing the Secretary of Labor to take into cus- 
tody and deport any alien who advocated or who belonged 
to any organization which advocated the overthrow of the 
government by force, the assassination of public officials, 
anarchy, or the unlawful destruction of property. This act 
was amended in the spring of 1920 to include all aliens con- 
victed of violation or conspiracy to violate any of the war- 
time statutes such as the Espionage and Sedition acts or the 
Trading with the Enemy Act. On the basis of this legisla- 
tion, Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer instigated crim- 
inal proceedings against thousands of suspected radicals all 
over the country. Wholesale raids against suspected Reds 
took place, accompanied in general by unlawful searches 
and seizures, the destruction of private property, and the 
detention of individuals for long periods of time without 
access to counsel. Hundreds of aliens were deported, 249 
to Russia alone on one sailing of the U.S.S. "Buford." Again, 
Villard sounded the warning: 

If we try to suppress with rigid hand those who would 
urge a different form of society; if self-constituted mobs 

A Liber aVs Concern for Individual Freedoms 53 

of uniformed men are to become censors of what the 
dissatisfied may or may not say; if we deny the right of 
free speech, and free thought to the dissenters; then we 
are padlocking the safety valve .... To let loose an 
idea upon the world is often a terrible thing, but still 
more terrible is the effort to combat i4eas by force and by 

This preoccupation of the Justice Department in round- 
ing up radical aliens reinforced a general fear of plots and 
intrigue to overthrow the government which had pervaded 
the country. Boston, Massachusetts, because of its large 
proportion of foreign-born, became a center of Red hys- 
teria. It was in this atmosphere that Nicola Sacco and 
Bartolomeo Vanzetti were arrested for the robbery and 
murder of the paymaster of a shoe factory in South Brain- 
tree. Both men were aliens, anarchists, and draft evaders, 
and both had been active in organizing strikes among Italian 
laborers in the industrial towns of eastern Massachusetts. 
They were also in the files of the federal Department of 
Justice as "radicals to be watched." On the basis of evidence 
which appeared to a number of legal authorities to be ex- 
tremely weak if not questionable, Sacco and Vanzetti were 
found guilty of the murder and robbery. To many, it 
seemed obvious that, given the temper of the times, they 
were convicted not on proof that they had committed the 
crimes but rather because of their alien and radical back- 
grounds. Judge Webster Thayer, who presided at the trial, 
had publicly expressed his prejudice against the two men. 
He refused all motions for a new trial, even though new 
evidence was subsequently produced which pointed to a 
professional gang of criminals as the killers. There was also 

54 Villard, Liberal of the ip20^s 

the suggestion of collusion between the Massachusetts au- 
thorities and agents of the Department of Justice to secure 
the conviction of the two men. 

During the seven years that Sacco and Vanzetti spent 
in prison awaiting the outcome of attempts to get a retrial, 
controversy over the case raged both in the United States 
and abroad. Oswald Garrison Villard described in his auto- 
biography an incident which illustrates both his deep con- 
cern over the Sacco and Vanzetti case and one segment of 
public opinion abroad, namely British. Ramsay MacDonald, 
Britain's first Labor Prime Minister and a close friend of 
Villard's, visited the United States in the spring of 1927 and 
was a guest at the Villard home. MacDonald was deeply 
interested in Sacco and Vanzetti and expressed a willingness 
to discuss their case with Massachusetts Governor Alvan T. 
Fuller, in whom the power of clemency and pardon rested. 
Villard arranged for a meeting with Governor Fuller at the 
State House and both Villard and Mr. MacDonald were 
asked to be the dinner guests of Governor and Mrs. Fuller. 
Villard relates that he accepted "with the one thought of 
Sacco and Vanzetti in my mind. How to steer the conversa- 
tion in that direction kept me preoccupied throughout the 
greater part of the meal .... Suddenly Mrs. Fuller turned 
to me and apropos of nothing said: 'What do you think of 
the Sacco and Vanzetti case?' If ever I was ready to kneel 
and kiss the hem of a woman's gown it was then." Villard 
turned the conversation over to Mr. MacDonald, saying 
"My opinion is of little value but here is a man whose voice 
is heard around the world." Ramsay MacDonald then ex- 
plained that some of the most distinguished of Britain's law 
profession were of the opinion that Sacco and Vanzetti 

A Liberal's Concern for Individual Freedoms ^^ 

should be released on the grounds that after six years im- 
prisonment under the death sentence they had expiated 
their sins if indeed they were guihy. Ironically, Governor 
Fuller was called to the telephone shortly after MacDonald 
had begun his remarks, and the full effects of his eloquence 
were lost. Villard insisted that MacDonald repeat his re- 
marks to the Governor later, but he reports that "the re- 
telling under these circumstances was far less impressive 
and obviously had much less effect upon the Governor than 
on Mrs. Fuller. I got the impression at the time that the 
case was beyond the Governor's grasp." ^ 

To American liberals the case had become a challenge to 
the effectiveness and validity of democratic legal processes 
in the United States. The primary issue became one of 
whether judicial procedures in the United States were to 
be applied impartially as a means of protecting human rights 
or whether they were to be used, in Villard's words, "to 
implement the fears of the community, to destroy those 
who fell out of favor with the ruling interests." 

As the date set for the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti, 
August 23, 1927, drew near, liberal intellectuals made a 
final effort on their behalf. Villard joined with a group 
which included Robert Morss Lovett, Jane Addams, John 
Dewey, and Arthur Garfield Hays to form the Citizen's 
National Committee for Sacco and Vanzetti. On August 9, 
Villard wrote to Governor Fuller asking him to commute 
the sentences of the two men. By this time, public opinion 
had forced Governor Fuller to review the case. He named 
an advisory committee consisting of President A. Lawrence 
Lowell of Harvard University, President Samuel W. Strat- 

8 See Villard, Fighting Years, pp. 507-10. 

^6 Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 

ton of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Judge 
Robert Grant. The committee reported to the Governor 
that, in its judgment, the men were guilty. Oswald Villard 
then wrote on August 12, 1927 to President Lowell, who 
had acted as chairman of the committee, to ask why mercy 
or commutation had not been recommended and appealed 
to him personally to urge the Governor to commute the 
sentence or pardon the convicted men. Villard based his 
appeal first on the dangers of class antagonism which he felt 
the case had accentuated: "In my thirty years' experience in 
journalism I cannot easily recall anything else in our Ameri- 
can life which has so set apart the working classes and their 
friends from those that, for want of a better name, are 
described as the capitalistic classes." Secondly, Villard called 
President Lowell's attention to pubUc opinion abroad and 
warned against the animosity already engendered there 
against the United States: 

In Berlin, in Rome, everywhere else, there is unanimity of 
sentiment that men who have been in such jeopardy for 
seven years should not now be executed. Mussolini has 
appealed for them — the despot himself .... Is it not 
time once more to pay "a decent respect to the opinions 
of mankind?" . . . There is no other civilized country in 
which men could have lain in jeopardy so long, and it 
is that fact, I repeat, which has so stirred Europe. Can 
we not pay deference to this feeling? Must we add to the 
hatreds we have earned in Europe and in South and 
Central America by the conduct of our foreign affairs? 

Villard concluded by appealing to Lowell on the grounds 
of justice and humanitarianism: 

A LiberaPs Concern for Individual Freedoms 57 

"Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord." Human beings 
have never suffered when they tempered justice with a 
little of the spirit of Jesus. The ruthless determination for 
vengeance which to the rest of the world seems now to 
typify Massachusetts, is nothing less than horrifying, es- 
pecially in view of the torture to which these men have 
been subjected by their being reprie"<^ed at the last mo- 
ment. It is a horrible cat-and-mouse game — a torture to 
which no human being should be subjected. ... it re- 
volts the conscience of every humanitarian to keep men 
in jeopardy like this. 

It was not until one month after the death of Sacco and 
Vanzetti that President Lowell replied, somewhat casually 
it might seem, to Villard's pleas: "In looking over my letters, 
I find the one from you of August 12th, and I am not sure 
whether I have ever answered it." He went on to reject the 
idea of mercy or commutation on the grounds that, if inno- 
cent, they should rather have been pardoned and, if guilty, 
they deserved to be executed; and in the opinion of the 
Governor's committee, they were guilty. 

Attempts to prove conclusively the innocence of Sacco 
and Vanzetti were continued for some time. A lawyer's 
committee undertook to print a complete transcript of the 
evidence at the trial and the court record of the various 
appeals. In Boston, the Sacco- Vanzetti Defense Committee 
centered its attention on collecting and editing the more 
important letters and statements of Sacco and Vanzetti. The 
Sacco and Vanzetti National League, with headquarters in 
New York City under the main direction of Robert Morss 
Lovett and meeting as late as March 25, 1930 in the home of 
Oswald Villard, pledged itself to help obtain publication of 

58 Villard, Liberal of the 1^20's 

the official record, the advisory committee's report, and the 
Sacco and Vanzetti letters; to establish Sacco's and Vanzetti's 
innocence; to work for reform of the law — law which made 
possible a situation in which all motions for a new trial 
could go before the trial judge, who might be prejudiced. 
The main purpose of this activity was to complete the record 
in order that the law might be guided to more effective 
justice. Villard stressed this attitude when questioned as to 
what possible purpose continued agitation on behalf of the 
two men could serve after their death: 

Those of us who believe in the innocence of Sacco and 
Vanzetti happen to be more than ever convinced of it 
because of new information that has come to us . . . We 
believe that their execution was a monstrous miscarriage 
of justice; that it revealed a weakness in the judicial struc- 
ture of the government of Massachusetts according to 
which the facts in the case were only passed upon by one 
judge whose bias was obvious even to the extent of calling 
the defendants "anarchistic bastards" while in the midst of 
the trial. We believe it to be a patriotic duty to agitate 
this question until that defective system is reformed. 

To Oswald Garrison Villard, the kind of treatment which 
Sacco and Vanzetti received at the hands of the judicial 
system of the state of Massachusetts and of the federal 
Department of Justice was far more dangerous to our dem- 
ocratic institutions than the poKtical beliefs for which it 
can be said with some justification that they were put to 
their death. The case had in it the elements which Villard 
was confident would rock the foundations of American 

A Liber aPs Concern for Individual Freedoms 59 

liberal institutions, namely "injustice, corruption, malad- 
ministration, intolerance, and lack of progress in our public 

The intolerance and accompanying persecution of the 
twenties took many forms and had many participants other 
than government officials. There were professional patriots 
by the hundreds among private citizens and the many pa- 
triotic societies which had sprung up throughout the coun- 
try. Their patriotism took the form of antagonism to Cath- 
olics, Jews, Negroes, and aliens. They opposed immigration 
and censored textbooks, periodicals and movies. College pro- 
fessors and speakers were screened for their political views. 
Deviations from the acceptable conformity of the moment 
was labeled "Bolshevik" or "Red," and the speaker's or 
writer's loyalty to the United States became immediately 
suspect. Villard and his Nation became a natural target of 
such groups because of their outspoken and independent 
views and penchant for choosing the unpopular side of 

The Daughters of the American Revolution, the Ameri- 
can Legion, and the Ku Klux Klan were not the least of 
those groups which took to themselves the responsibility 
for safeguarding, in their own way, American institutions. 
Illustrative of the form which intolerance took was the 
black list prepared by the Daughters of the American Rev- 
olution. Early in 1928 that organization, together with the 
Key Men of America, issued a list of persons considered so 
subversive of American principles that they were to be 
banned from speaking at meetings of the two organizations 
throughout the country. The bulk of persons on the list 

6o Villard, Liberal of the i^zo^s 

were individuals whose views on military and naval pre- 
paredness did not agree with those of the DAR, who in 
Villard's mind took the position that "the question of 
adequate defense of our nation should never be debated 
by loyal Americans and least of all by members of the 
Daughters of the American Revolution." Among those who 
were black-listed, to name just a few, were Jane Addams, 
Senator William E. Borah, Attorney Clarence Darrow, Mor- 
ris Ernst, Arthur Garfield Hays, Freda Kirchwey, Repre- 
sentative Fiorello La Guardia, President William A. Neilsen 
of Smith College, Mrs. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Norman 
Thomas, William Allen White, and, of course, Oswald 
Garrison Villard. 

To Villard and his staff on the Nation, the situation had 
elements of humor which they proceeded to exploit. The 
Nation organized a Black-list Committee, composed of 
Clarence Darrow, Morris Ernst, Arthur Garfield Hays, and 
Freda Kirchwey, which issued invitations to those people 
on the DAR list to attend a "Black-list Party." Invitations 
were addressed to "Dear Fellow Conspirators" and read in 

We notice that your name appears on the Roll of Honor 
drawn up by the Daughters of the American Revolution 
and their allies, the Key Men of America. Some call this 
Honor Roll a blacklist. It includes United States Senators, 
Communists, ministers. Socialists, Republicans, editors, 
housewives, lawyers — most of us, in fact. You may bring 
your friend if you can prove that his name appears on 
any blacklist. Otherwise he will not be admitted .... 
Members of your family may come; we assume them to 
be at least slightly tinged from association with you. 

A Liberars Concern for Individual Freedoms 6i 

The letter closed with "Yours to make the world safe for 
humor," and was signed by the Nation's Black-list Com- 
mittee. Special invitations were sent to such dignitaries as 
President Calvin Coolidge, New York's Governor Alfred E. 
Smith, Mayor James Walker, and Mrs. A. Brousseau, na- 
tional president of the DAR. As many asJone thousand per- 
sons attended the party held at the Level Club on May 9, 
1929. Many others wired and wrote of their disappointment 
at not being qualified to attend because of the absence of 
their name on the DAR list. Heywood Broun, for example, 
was reported in the New York Times as being "incensed" 
that his name was omitted. 

Despite efforts to turn the matter of the black list into a 
farce, its serious overtones could not be dismissed lightly by 
VUlard. To ban speakers merely because one disagreed with 
their point of view was clearly a suppression of free speech, 
and to identify those who differed from you as disloyal was 

Be good and you'll be lonesome was an old joke. Be a 
D.A.R. and be in cold storage; be happily immune from 
wicked new ideas and from ever hearing one word with 
which you do not agree .... It is certainly entirely un- 
American not only to deny others the right to speak, but 
to seek to tarnish their characters merely because of dif- 
ferences of opinion, without giving those attacked a 
chance to defend themselves and to be heard. It is a most 
obnoxious kind of censorship because it is secret and ir- 
responsible and gets into the light of day only by accident. 

The Daughters of the American Revolution, however, 
were a relatively mild threat to individual liberties in the 

62 Villard, Liberal of the 1^26*5 

twenties compared with the Ku Klux Klan and the religious 
and racial intolerance which it fostered and encouraged in 
the name of Americanism. "One has only to think of the 
rise of the Ku Klux Klan," Villard reasoned, "with its de- 
termined warring upon Negro, Jew, Catholic and foreigner, 
or to realize the tremendous development of religious prej- 
udice and hostility in America of late, to appreciate how 
dangerous to American liberty are the precedents thus 
established." ~~~ 

In upholding "pure Americanism," the Klan resorted 
to physical violence — particularly against Negroes — to the 
boycotting of Jewish merchants, and to discrimination 
against Catholics in housing and jobs. One of the most 
disturbing aspects of the Klan problem was the degree of 
political power it was able to build in many of the southern 
states and several midwestern and far western states. Par- 
ticular among these were Oregon, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkan- 
sas, Indiana, Ohio, and California.® The Klan is credited 
with having been of considerable influence in defeating 
the presidential nomination of Governor Alfred E. Smith of 
New York at the Democratic National Convention of 1924. 
The convention divided almost evenly between anti-Klan 
delegates and delegates who were either pro-Klan or op- 
posed to openly disavowing it. The Platform Committee 
refused to condemn the Klan as did the convention itself, 
although the amendment to the platform proposed by the 
anti-Klan forces was defeated by only one vote. When it 
came to nominations, a deadlock ensued between Al Smith, 
champion of the anti-Klan forces, and William Gibbs Mc- 

» See John M. Mecklin, The Ku Klux Klan (New York: Har- 
court. Brace & Co., 1924). 

A LiberaPs Concern for Individual Freedoms 63 

Adoo, choice of the Klan. On the one hundred and third 
ballot, a compromise candidate, John W. Davis, was nom- 
inated. Villard's impression of the convention was that it 
was more concerned about party unity than rights and 
justice. "We were treated once more," Villard wrote of 
the convention, "to whining appeals not to disrupt the party, 
to remember the innocent but misled members of the Klan 
whose motives are so good and so high and patriotic that 
they have to express them by skulking around at night in 
masks and nightgowns and discriminating against equally 
worthwhile or better Americans who happen to be Negroes, 
or foreign-born, or Catholics or Jews." 

The Republican National Convention of 1924 also re- 
frained from taking a stand against the Klan. According to 
Villard, its denunciation of the Klan did not go beyond 
"such glittering generalities that the here assembled klans 
and kleagles may return to their hometowns with absolute 
satisfaction." Both major-party platforms side-stepped the 
Klan issue. The Republican platform made no reference 
whatever to it; the Democratic platform pledged the party 
to the maintenance and defense of the First Amendment 
and added only, "We insist at all times upon obedience to 
the orderly processes of the law and deplore and condemn 
any effort to arouse religious or racial dissension." In Vil- 
lard's view, the Republican Party best reflected the interests 
of the Klan. "If the Klan voters are going to vote in ac- 
cordance with the attitude of the two conventions," he 
explained, "they will vote the Republican ticket because 
the decadent Republicans side-stepped the issue without 
debate." Ensuing events tended to reinforce his opinion. 
In August of 1924, John W. Davis denounced the Klan 

64 Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 

publicly by name, as had Robert M. La Follette, the Progres- 
sive candidate. Calvin Coolidge was to maintain an unbroken 
silence on the subject throughout the campaign. 

Despite disapproval of the objectives and methods of the 
Klan, despite the fact that the Klan infringed upon the 
rights and freedom of others, Villard would not deny it 
those same rights. Unlike the DAR and the Klan, Villard 
would not deny those who differed from him their right to 
express their opinions. Thus he was consistent in his ad- 
herence to the principle of toleration: 

The Klan itself has on numerous occasions been deprived 
of its legal right of assembly. The K.K.K. is surely not 
much less out of place in American life than the I.W.W. 
Yet both of them are, according to every American tradi- 
tion, entitled to every right guaranteed by the Constitu- 
tion, precisely as our Rotarians, our Chambers of Com- 
merce, or our patriotic societies which, to many Ameri- 
cans, represent the acme of conservatism and reaction. 

The patriotism of the w^ar years embraced a compulsive 
hatred and intolerance of the German people and their gov- 
ernment as well as anything which could be associated with 
Germany in any way. As a consequence, the teaching of 
German was halted in many public schools; German operas 
were boycotted; the statue of Frederick the Great was re- 
moved from a Washington, D.C., park; and many other 
manifestations of hatred were indulged. 

Villard's German background, coupled with his pacifism 
and internationalism, made him a ready victim of suspicion 
and accusations of disloyalty, not only during the war but 
also in the period of reaction which continued throughout 

A Liber aPs Concern for Individual Freedoms 6^ 

the twenties. Needless to say, many of those who questioned 
Villard's fidelity were misinformed or misguided, but it is 
possible also that they were either ignorant of the man's 
true position on the controversial issues concerning the 
war or unable to comprehend those convictions which 
motivated Villard. Persons like Dr. Raymond Alden of 
Stanford University, who, in 191 8, questioned Villard about 
his rumored "pro-Germanism," were apparently unfamiliar 
with the publicly stated and publicized views of Villard. As 
early as 191 5, the New York Times reported Villard's dis- 
approval of the nationalistic, German-American groups 
which were springing up throughout the United States. He 
attacked the development of a political solidarity among 
German- Americans and warned that "to allow such nation- 
alistic groups to develop here as they did in Austria-Hun- 
gary would be most disastrous." ^" Villard made it clear 
that there could be no divided citizenship, loyalty, or al- 
legiance under the American flag. 

By 1917, German groups had taken note of Villard's 
attitude toward them and had become antagonistic. Named 
to an honorary committee of one hundred sponsoring a 
Teutonic Charity Bazaar, Villard was soon dropped on the 
grounds that he was outspoken in his sympathy for the 
enemies of the Central Powers. The bazaar, it seemed, was 
designed to aid the war sufferers of the Central Powers. 

In the fall of 191 7 the Chronicle Magazine undertook to 
select from Who^s Who and the Social Register the names 
of persons of German birth or descent, to whom a letter 
was addressed asking them to affirm their loyalty to Amer- 
ica. Villard was among those selected, and the New York 
Times publicized his reply, which unequivocally stated his 

^^ New York Ti?nes, Jan. 30, 1917, p. 5, col. i. 

66 Villard, Liberal of the i^zd's 

loyalty to the United States. "While I am proud of my 
German blood and my German grandfather," he wrote, 
"and the fact that my relatives were revolutionists against 
the sort of thing that is now going on in Germany (had they 
had their way there would have been a republic in Germany 
in 1848), there has never been one moment in my life when 
I have been divided in my allegiance to the United States." ^^ 
A few months later, Villard was called upon to defend his 
position to Stanford's Dr. Alden and wrote, "I want nothing 
so much as to see the Kaiser and all his crowd chased out. 
Germany I consider to have been defeated the day she 
entered Belgium — defeated in the realm of morals, in the 
public opinion of the world, according to every standard of 
ethics and morality." 

In spite of his public and private pronouncements of 
loyalty to his country, and in spite of his pleading for and 
defense of freedom of thought and expression as traditional 
American liberties, Villard found himself, months after the 
war was ended, banned from speaking in some parts of 
the country and mobbed in at least one city where he suc- 
ceeded in getting the platform. The latter incident occurred 
in Cincinnati, Ohio, early in 192 1 and is an excellent illustra- 
tion of the intolerant behavior of private individuals and 
groups in those postwar years. 

Villard had accepted an invitation from the Women's 
City Club of Cincinnati to speak before a joint meeting of 
the City Club and the Women's City Club. A week in ad- 
vance of his scheduled address, opposition began to form 
as petitions of protest, which, according to press reports, 
contained the names of hundreds of weU-known women. 

'^^Ibid.y Oct. I, 1917, p. 14, col. 4. 

A LiberaPs Concern for Individual Freedoms 67 

The petitions originated with the Women Voters League of 
Cincinnati, and they charged Villard with continuing to 
advocate pacifism after the United States' entry into the 
war, with opposition to the draft as a measure necessary to 
bring the war to a successful conclusion and with support 
of the cause of radical conscientious objectors. Within the 
space of four or five days, the Literary Club, which rented 
its rooms to the City Club for weekly meetings, had re- 
fused to allow use of its quarters for Villard's speech; the 
Lions Club unanimously voted its objections to his ap- 
pearance; the Cincinnati and Covington, Kentucky, chapters 
of the Daughters of the American Revolution added their 
voices to the protest. There were resignations from both 
the City Club and the Women's City Club. When Attorney 
Robert L. Black resigned from the City Club, he un- 
doubtedly reflected the feeling of many in commenting 
that "during the war Villard stood for pacifism and against 
conscription. His name appears on Dr. Fuehr's list of Ameri- 
can citizens favorable to Germany. Recently he has publicly 
defended Roger Baldwin, convicted as a draft evader and 
next friend to yellowest conscientious objectors." ^^ At- 
torney August A. Rendig, Jr., resigned merely because he 
found Villard "un-American." ^^ 

Meanwhile, however, a counteroflFensive got under way. A 
labor union leader commended the City Club for its back- 
ing of Villard, and petitions supporting his address were 
initiated by those who, even while disagreeing with Villard, 
were concerned for freedom of speech. The City Club and 
the Women's City Club protested against the "unfairness 

^^Ibid., Feb. 4, 192 1, p. 3, col. 2. 
^^ Ibid., Feb. 9, 192 1, p. 7, col. i. 

68 Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 

and un-Americanism" of various hotels and public halls 
which had barred Villard from delivering his lecture on 
their premises. Villard himself wired a defense: 

The charge of disloyalty is absolutely absurd on its face. 
My book on Germany was the first published by any 
American after the war began attacking the German posi- 
tion and denouncing invasion of Belgium and declaring 
Kaiser must go — this in January, 191 5. I am proud to 
recall that Bernstorff, the German ambassador, declared 
my opposition hurt the German cause more than that of 
any American journalist. Had I been disloyal I should 
not have been allowed to go on publishing the Nevi York 
Evening Post and other papers after we got into the war, 
I would not have been given my passport immediately 
after the armistice and urged to go to the peace con- 

When Villard made his address that February 11 in the 
auditorium of the Women's City Club, a crowd of men 
attempted to storm the doors of the Club but were turned 
away by an alerted police. Villard was then spirited out of 
the city by auto to avoid the railroad station which was 
reported as being surrounded by patrolling Legionnaires. 

Villard later blamed Cincinnati's press for stirring up the 
agitation against him. He had spoken in Cincinnati on the 
previous January 30 with no opposition whatever, but after 
that appearance the forces of reaction had set in. He quotes 
the Cincinnati Tribune as saying of him, "He did what he 
could to make the entrance of the United States into the 
war a failure abroad and calamity at home. He still preaches 
his damnable doctrines." The Tribune then added a note on 

A LiberaFs Concern for Individual Freedoms 69 

the inexpediency of tolerance. There were "momentous oc- 
casions" in a nation's life, it posited, "where to tolerate other 
than one universal opinion, conviction, judgment, is to 
tolerate treason." ^^ 

When Villard returned to Cincinnati to speak some ten 
years later, it was in a friendlier atmosphere. By that time 
he had traveled in Russia, had written about what he saw 
there, and had been duly characterized by a Russian re- 
viewer of his writings as "a one hundred per cent American, 
. . . entirely uninfected with Marxism and . . . chock full 
of American capitalistic optimism .... He went back home 
to America the same peaceful bourgeois as when he set out 
on his venturesome Russian trip."^^ Thus damned by the 
Russians, Villard became much less vulnerable to criticism at 

Villard's concern over criminal justice throughout the 
twenties was not confined to the kind of defective judicial 
system which could send Sacco and Vanzetti to their deaths 
without a retrial in the face of new evidence, nor to hap- 
hazard arrests of aliens and even foreign-born American 
citizens by the Department of Justice. There were other 
elements of criminal justice which commanded his atten- 
tion. He threw his voice and that of the Natioii into crusades 
against lynching, the third degree, and capital punishment 
and in support of prison reform. 

Between 1900 and 1920, almost 1,500 persons were lynched 
in the United States. Considerable agitation for federal legis- 
lation to control this abuse of the individual's right to due 

1^ Quoted by Villard, Fighting Years, p. 476. 

1^ See the New York Times, Feb. 23, 1930, sec. Ill, p. 3, col. 3. 

70 Villard, Liberal of the 1^20's 

process of law resulted. In 1922 the so-called Dyer Anti- 
Lynching Bill was before the Senate. This proposal would 
have given federal courts jurisdiction to act where state 
courts failed to act against persons suspected of participat- 
ing in lynchings. Villard was strongly in favor of passage of 
this bUl and, particularly in his capacity as vice president 
of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored 
People, waged a campaign for its passage. The bill was 
eventually defeated in the Senate by a filibuster of Southern 
Democrats, but to Villard the campaign had served at least 
one purpose — that of focusing "public attention upon the 
greatest disgrace to America as it had never before been 
focussed in the South, hitherto all too ready to think that 
protests against lynchings were merely a symptom of North- 
ern ignorance or ill will." 

As for capital punishment, Villard was opposed to it as 
both a form of punishment and a preventative of further 
crime. No one, in Villard's view, had the right to deprive 
another of his life, and capital punishment was ineffective 
as a crime deterrent. "It is not a deterrent," he argued before 
a committee of the New York State Legislative Assembly, 
"it is a survival of barbarism, and ... it violates the sanctity 
of human life .... Human life is inviolable because it is 
one thing that once destroyed can never be restored .... 
As for the deterrent effect, what could be more absurd than 
to maintain it decreases murder . . . violence begets vio- 
lence, and murder murder." Villard's fight against capital 
punishment, like his campaign against lynching, however, 
was not to become one of his successful crusades. 

Widespread usage of the third degree, in New York City 
in particular and throughout the country generally, also 
moved Villard. To him, the third degree was contrary to 

A Liberals Concern for Individual Freedoms 71 

a number of principles of traditional American justice. It 
presupposed a person guilty, rather than innocent until 
proved guilty; in substance it permitted the examination 
of a person without counsel present; and it violated the 
sacred duty of the arresting officer to hold the body of the 
prisoner inviolate. Villard took the position that public of- 
ficials on all levels of government and members of the legal 
profession should take it upon themselves to put an end 
to the violations of state and local law and the Constitution 
of the United States which the third degree embraced. "Let 
the physicians of the law," he argued, "first heal themselves." 
As time went on without tangible results and he began to 
spend wakeful nights over the issue, Villard began to look 
to other solutions. He wrote to the secretary of the New 
York City Bar Association: 

Frankly, the failure of the Bar Association to move in the 
matter of the third degree is beginning to get my goat, 
for the torturing is going on every day. My plan is to 
go ahead soon in the formation of a group of fifty or a 
hundred men prominent in New York to address a letter 
of protest to the Bar Association and the County Bar 
Association, demanding action and to give this letter to 
the press. I hate to take this step, but the fact is something 
Tnust be done soon. This whole thing is so much on my 
mind that it woke me up at four o'clock this morning,, 
and would not let me go to sleep again until just before, 
it was time to get up. 

Villard was devoted to the concept that the individual in 
a free society is entitied to the maximum degree of freedom 

72 Villard, Liberal of the trio's 

consistent with peace and order and the public safety. Con- 
sistent with this doctrine, he opposed government regula- 
tion of morals. "If I were dictator," Villard once somewhat 
facetiously maintained, "I should remove from the statute 
books by one stroke of the pen every law regulating the 
private morals of individual citizens. I should declare that, 
however men and women behaved in their relations with 
one another, it was their own affair save where the public 
peace was disturbed." Taking swimming in the nude as 
an example, Villard once argued that this was plainly a ques- 
tion of good taste and athletics as well as custom and re- 
iterated that "within the limits of public order the indi- 
vidual should be left absolutely free." Villard decried what 
he considered the tremendous faith of Americans in the 
magic of the law as evidenced by the mass of statutes passed 
throughout the United States in any given year, and he 
was particularly dubious of those which attempted to regu- 
late morals. "There is no greater fallacy," he exclaimed, 
"than that of control of morals by law. I am unalterably 
opposed to censorship of any kind and variety and believe 
that we must learn that the price of liberty is a certain 
amount of license." 

Specifically, Villard was critical of laws making adultery 
a crime and of a White Slave Law which was not only in- 
effective but only resulted in fostering the further offense 
of blackmail. He pointed to the "hypocrisy" of United 
States statutes which banned immigrants who may have en- 
gaged in extramarital relations. "Just as if," cried Villard, 
"there were not next door to Ellis Island, on Manhattan, 
a hundred or more thousand couples living in extra-marital 

It should, perhaps, be pointed out here that Villard's op- 

A Liber aVs Concern for Individual Freedoms 73 

position to governmental intervention in the area of extra- 
marital relations was accompanied by a defense of birth 
control. He advocated the distribution by the government 
of all the necessary information without charge to the indi- 
vidual. He also favored the eradication of any distinction, 
legal or social, between children born out of or in wedlock. 
As for divorce, argued Villard, it ought to be granted simply 
on mutual consent. 

It should also be noted that Villard's criticism of the short- 
comings of the White Slave Act did not preclude his favor- 
ing the rigid control of the exploitation of the bodies of 
women for the gain of individuals. Neither did his views 
on freedom from governmental restraint in the moral sphere 
include permitting free traffic in drugs. He justified the rigid 
control of the sale of narcotics because they were a danger 
to the physical and mental health of the individual and made 
him ultimately a burden on society, for drug addicts often 
became public wards. 

For much the same reason, Villard advocated not prohibi- 
tion but control of the dispensing of alcohol "to control 
the drink habit, so men should not profit by catering to that 
appetite of their fellow-men which undeniably has done 
more than any other one thing to fill our jails, our hospitals, 
and our asylums." Villard's position on prohibition became 
somewhat nebulous or ambivalent, however. He did not 
drink, but he was a member of a social class which enjoyed 
alcohol within limits which Villard found acceptable. When 
it came to the working classes, however, Villard found him- 
self in agreement with those who considered alcohol an 
evil. Of his dilemma, Villard once commented privately, "I 
have never had a problem more difficult for an editor to 

74 Villard, Liberal of the i^zd's 

The administration of the Volstead Act, which went into 
effect on January 20, 1920 to implement the Eighteenth 
Amendment, was a failure. The national government did not 
have enough personnel to control the various sources of 
alcohol — medicinal liquor, home brew, smuggled Hquor, 
industrial alcohol, illicit stills. In addition, literally hundreds 
of thousands of people simply refused to accept the law 
as binding. Villard himself did not take a positive stand 
on recognizing the law as binding. When queried by a 
Nation reader as to whether or not he would obey the law, 
Villard replied that, while he would obey the Prohibition 
Law, "I should probably violate any law compelling me to 
take part in a war, and I undoubtedly would have violated 
the fugitive slave law as did my grandfather and his anti- 
slavery associates." What Villard was implying was that 
obedience to the law is a matter of individual conscience. 
As a teetotaler himself, he could not claim the right of con- 
science in disobedience to the Prohibition Law, but he in- 
ferred that others might well do so. He made this point of 
view explicit in 1929, when public opinion against prohibi- 
tion had become more crystallized: "As to violations of the 
Prohibition law, my attitude is just this: I think that con- 
science is above the law and that anyone whose conscience 
is revolted by a law is entitled to violate it, provided he is 
willing cheerfully to pay for it." Villard concluded by warn- 
ing that "those who pretend that their violation of the 
Prohibition law is due to conscience had better make sure 
that they are not confusing their consciences with an ap- 
petite or habit." 

Although Villard recognized that to many persons prohi- 
bition was a serious moral issue and that to others it was 
a matter of personal liberty, he felt compelled to point out 

A LiberaVs Concern for Individual Freedoms 75 

with some bitterness that many of the latter were not as 
vigilant of violations of the more important freedoms of 
speech, press, and political thought of their day as they were 
of their freedom to imbibe alcoholic beverages. 



Noblesse Oblige: 
A Liberal InUrvrctation 

Characteristic of the liberal movements of Europe in the 
nineteenth century was a kind of noblesse oblige — an effort 
on the part of members of a privileged class to have their 
privileges extended to others. Gilbert Murray reminds us 
that "It was people who had the vote who worked to have 
the franchise given to the voteless; Christians worked for 
the emancipation of the Jews, Protestants for the emancipa- 
tion of Catholics, members of the Church of England who 
abolished the Test Acts. . . . always a privileged class work- 
ing for the extension of their privilege, or sometimes for its 
transformation from a privilege into a common right of 
humanity." ^ 

Oswald Garrison Villard called attention to the fact that 
there was a notable lack of this characteristic among the 
privileged order of his day. Writing in the prosperous 
business society of the twenties, Villard held that the aris- 
tocracy of wealth obligated, that wealth should bring with 
it a sense of responsibility to the state and a readiness to 

1 Gilbert Murray, Liberality and Civilization (London: George 
Allen, Ltd., 1938), p. 31. 


Noblesse Oblige: A Liberal Interpretation 'j'j 

serve the country. Villard lamented that there was no 
noblesse oblige in the United States, that here wealth did 
not connote social responsibility and duty as it might. He 
urged that there were innumerable opportunities for un- 
official, if not official, public service. Villard himself, privi- 
leged from birth with wealth, education, travel, and social 
position, fought the battles of the underprivileged, some of 
whom were, in effect, unable to help themselves. He cham- 
pioned the causes of the Negro, of women, and of the 
American Indian. He defended the right of Jews and Catho- 
lics to hold pubHc office. He battled on behalf of the foreign- 
born and on behalf of rights for the American worker. 

Villard's concern over those groups to whom enjoyment 
of the normal privileges or rights of a society was denied 
because of low economic position or inferior social status 
reflects the individualist, libertarian, and humanitarian aspects 
of the liberal philosophy. Devoted to the concept of the 
inherent worth and dignity of the individual, Villard ap- 
plied it to all individuals — female as well as male, foreign- 
born as well as native-born. Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, 
the poor as well as the rich. All humans regardless of class, 
creed, or color are entitled to the same opportunities in the 
liberal ideology for realization of their individual potential. 
It is not strange, then, that a liberal such as Villard would 
take up the cause of the underdog, would insist on tolerance 
and minority rights, and would adopt the humanitarian 
doctrine that each man has a duty — an obligation to con- 
cern himself with the welfare of the rest of the human race. 

It is perhaps only natural that the grandson of the Great 
Liberator should have devoted a great deal of time and 

78 Villard, Liberal of the i^zd's 

energy throughout his life to the problem of the Negro in 
American society. One thing is certain. In Villard's devo- 
tion to the cause of the Negro, he felt duty-bound by his 
heritage. He spoke disparagingly of the fact that other 
descendants of the abolitionists had abdicated the cause. 

One of Villard's most significant contributions to the 
Negro cause was his service to the National Association for 
the Advancement of Colored People. The NAACP was 
founded in the early weeks of 1909 with the alHance of those 
Negroes participating in the Niagara Movement for full 
manhood suffrage for the Negro and a group of white per- 
sons led by Mary White Ovington, William English Wall- 
ing, and Dr. Henry Moskowitz, who, motivated by a race 
riot in Springfield, Illinois, in 1908, sought justice for the 
Negro. Villard was invited, in February of 1909, to write 
the call for the conference of Negroes and whites held on 
Lincoln's Birthday of that year, out of which the NAACP 
subsequently emerged. About this request Villard com- 
mented, "No greater compliment has ever been paid to me." 

The call that came from Villard's pen was impressive. It 
recited the wrongs that Lincoln would find should his spirit 
revisit the United States on his centenary. He would find 
the Negro suffering disfranchisement and discrimination in 
education, in employment, and in transportation. He would 
find him denied justice in the courts and lynched by the 
mob. Silence under such conditions, urged Villard, meant 
tacit approval. He ended by quoting Abraham Lincoln: 
" 'A house divided against itself cannot stand'; this govern- 
ment cannot exist half slave and half free any better today 
than it could in 1861, hence we call upon all the believers 
in democracy to join in a national conference for the dis- 
cussion of present evils, the voicing of protests and the re- 
newal of the struggle for civil and political liberty." 

Noblesse Oblige: A Liberal Interpretation 79 

Subsequently, Villard served the NAACP in a host of 
ways. He served in a series of official capacities culminating 
in his election to the vice-presidency in 193 1. For years the 
association enjoyed free use of space in the Evening Post 
building. In the Evening Post and later in the pages of the 
Nation, Villard gave the association, and j Negro problems 
generally, considerable favorable publicity, helping thereby 
to gain many friends for the Negro cause. Conversely, he 
withheld unfavorable publicity. He refused, for example, to 
accept for the pages of the Eveni?ig Post in 191 5 a lengthy 
advertisement on the motion picture The Birth of a Nation, 
which portrayed Negroes in a disadvantageous light. Villard 
was also continually alert for sources of financial support 
not only for the NAACP but for the Urban League and 
the Civil Liberties Union as well. 

In 1 91 2 Villard supported Woodrow Wilson in his cam- 
paign for the Presidency. At that time Villard was chairman 
of the board of directors of the NAACP, and the task of 
convincing its Negro members that a candidate of southern 
birth would concern himself with the protection of Negro 
rights was a formidable one. At one point in the campaign, 
Villard considered it vital that Wilson should make a public 
statement assuring the Negroes that they would receive 
equal treatment before the law and that there would be no 
discrimination in the matter of political appointments should 
he, Wilson, be elected. Villard's intention was to publish 
such a statement in his Evening Post and in the Crisis, the 
journal of the NAACP. Villard explained in a letter to Wil- 
son the necessity for the statement: 

I feel very strongly that nothing important can be accom- 
plished among the colored people until we have an utter- 
ance from you which we can quote. They not unnaturally 

8o Villard, Liberal of the ip20^s 

mistrust you because they have been told that Princeton 
University closed its doors to the colored man (and was 
about the only northern institution to do so) during 
your presidency. They know that besides yourself, both 
Mr. McAdoo and Mr. McCombs are of Southern birth, 
and they fear that the policy of injustice and disfranchise- 
ment which prevails not only in the Southern states, but 
in many of the Northern as well, will receive a great im- 
petus by your presence in the White House. 

Although Wilson did not respond to Villard's request for 
a statement, he did assure a committee of representative 
Negroes that, if elected, he would "seek to be President of 
the whole nation and would know no differences of race 
or creed or section, but to act in good conscience and in a 
Christian spirit through it all." ^ 

Shortly after Wilson assumed the Presidency, Villard ap- 
proached him, again on behalf of the NAACP, with plans 
for a National Race Commission to be appointed by the 
President for the purpose of making a study and report of 
the status of the Negro, with particular reference to his 
economic situation. Wilson had the proposal for the Race 
Commission under consideration for three months in all 
before he finally wrote to Villard, rejecting the plan because 
he found himself "absolutely blocked by the sentiment of 
Senators; not alone Senators from the South, by any means, 
but Senators from various parts of the country." ^ 

While Villard was negotiating unsuccessfully with Presi- 
dent Wilson with respect to the Race Commission, he heard 

2 Ray Stannard Baker, Woodroiv Wilson: Life and Letters 
(Garden City: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 193 1), HI, 387. 

3 Ibid., IV, 222. 

Noblesse Oblige: A Liberal Interpretation 8i 

rumors of segregation among employees of the Treasury 
Department under Secretary William G. McAdoo. Villard 
was deeply concerned because during the campaign he had 
repeatedly assured the Negroes that Wilson would not con- 
done such a policy. Villard tried repeatedly to see President 
Wilson on matters pertaining to the Negro |but without suc- 
cess. Wilson did, however, in correspondence with Villard, 
verify the fact that segregation was an accepted policy of 
his administration and that it was in the interest of the 
Negroes themselves: 

What distressed me about your letter is to find that you 
look at it in so different a light. I am sorry that those who 
interest themselves most in the welfare of the Negroes 
should misjudge this action on the part of the departments, 
for they are seriously misjudging it. My own feeling is, 
by putting certain bureaus and sections of the service in 
the charge of negroes we are rendering them more safe 
in their possession of office and less likely to be discrimi- 
nated against.^ 

Needless to say, Wilson's position was not taken lightly 
by Negro groups and their white champions. Villard and 
others — John Haynes Holmes for one — addressed mass meet- 
ings on the subject. Villard attributed the adoption of the 
segregation poKcy to the "innate prejudice of the Southern 
portion of the Administration," and claimed that Wilson 
had thus, at the outset of his career as President, needlessly 
antagonized one-ninth of the population of the country. 
Villard regarded Wilson's philosophy as wrong, "his de- 
mocracy gravely at fault. He has given us beautiful and 
worthy sentiments in his book called The New Freedom" 

^Ibid., p. 221. 

82 Villard, Liberal of the ip20^s 

wrote Villard. "But nowhere do we find any indication 
that his democracy is not strictly limited by the sex line and 
the color line." ^ Villard was among those who watched 
bitterly while Negroes were called upon to serve in the 
armed forces in order to help make the world safe for 
democracy in 19 17 and 1918. "What hypocrisy! What in- 
justice!" he cried. "They were forced to die for the country 
which was still for them what Wendell Phillips had called 
it in Abolition days, 'a magnificent conspiracy against jus- 
tice!' "« 

By 1928, Villard was noting that the only political party 
which took a worthy position on the Negro question was 
the Communist Party. The platform of Robert M. La Fol- 
lette — whom Villard had actively supported — in the presi- 
dential campaign of 1924 had, strangely enough, made no 
reference to the problems of minorities, no mention what- 
soever of civil rights. The New York State Progressive 
Party in which Villard was active in 1925 adopted a plank 
which very generally demanded a true equality of oppor- 
tunity and freedom of development for all races and creeds. 
In 1928 both the Democratic and Prohibition parties were 
silent on the matter of civil rights, and the Republican Party 
restricted its position on the negro problem to adoption of 
an antilynching plank. "The only party," declared Villard, 
"that comes out squarely for giving the Negro every right 
that would be his under the Constitution if his skin were 
white is the Communist Party, and that is a fact that the 
older parties had better take note of." 

A month after the radio address in which Villard made 
this statement. Senator Carter Glass of Virginia took note 
of it and in so doing referred to Villard as "the rankest 

^ Villard, Fighting Years, p. 240. 
^ Ibid., p. 241. 

Noblesse Oblige: A Liberal biter pretation 83 

negrophile in America." Villard was not at all disturbed 
by the charge. On the contrary, he wrote Senator Glass 
that he regretted he could not accept the designation, for 
"There are others whose services on behalf of freedom and 
democracy for the American Negro are so superior to mine 
that I cannot claim the distinction." 

By 1929 Villard noted gains in race relations in the South, 
but at the same time he observed that the "color line" was 
tightening in the North. Villard called attention particularly 
to the economic conditions of the Negro: "Everywhere race 
prejudice, consciously or unconsciously, is the servant of 
economic serfdom — sharecropping, exclusion from labor 
unions, peonage, wage exploitation, political chicanery, and 
the denial of decent housing, decent living, and decent edu- 
cation." Villard concluded prophetically, "It is a far-flung 
battle line, and he would be absurdly over-enthusiastic who 
could feel that the issue has been more than joined." 

As Villard fought long and courageously for Negro 
causes, so he fought for the economic, political, and legal 
emancipation of women, developing the women's rights 
issue to the magnitude of a major crusade. 

Villard's preoccupation with the rights of women was in 
the liberal tradition, both European and American. In point 
of fundamental rights, men and women were created equal 
and were entitled to the same basic privileges in society. In 
a nation which based its political institutions on the prin- 
ciple of self-government, women as well as men were en- 
titled to participate in that self-government. To the extent 
that they were disfranchised, that nation was not fully self- 

Oswald Villard's very first public speech, made in Bos- 

84 Villard, Liberal of the ip20^s 

ton, Massachusetts, was devoted to the cause of woman 
suffrage, and he refers to it in his autobiography as his 
"maiden" speech. Villard was one of eighty-four men who 
marched in the first joint suffrage parade in New York in 
191 1 amidst jeers and rotten eggs. It was in part through 
his efforts that the Men's League for Woman Suffrage was 
established, and he served on its board of directors. 

Woodrow Wilson's opposition to woman suffrage was 
a contributing factor to Villard's eventual coolness toward 
Wilson and his dissatisfaction with Wilson's liberalism. Wil- 
son was not converted to woman suffrage until 191 8. Two 
factors have been attributed to changing his mind. First, 
two of Wilson's daughters joined the suffrage cause; and 
second, he was impressed with the work women had done 
during the war. Villard never accepted this explanation. 
He was of the firm conviction that Wilson's conversion 
was due to political expediency alone, a motive which Vil- 
lard abhorred. He was sure that Wilson feared that Theodore 
Roosevelt would be a nominee for the 1920 presidential 
election and would garner the votes of the suffrage states. 
As Villard described Wilson, he "liked, as any proper man 
should, pretty women and their company but he never had 
respect for their intellectual accomplishments or believed 
them else than quite inferior to men. Women no more than 
blacks figured in his vision of a really democratic society." "^ 

Villard's concern for the improvement of the status of 
women did not end with the acquisition of the suffrage. 
He fought for legal as well as political rights for women. 
He fought for civic and professional status for them as 
well. Villard was critical of Wilson, for example, because 
he had not included a woman in the Peace Conference at 
Versailles. He was later to criticize President Herbert Hoo- 

''' Ibid., p. 291. 

Noblesse Oblige: A Liberal Interpretation 85 

ver for not appointing a woman to his Cabinet, Writing 
to the Right Honorable Margaret G. Bondfield, first woman 
Cabinet member and privy councilor in Great Britain, Vil- 
lard commented, "It will amuse you to know that Herbert 
Hoover now says he intended to appoint a woman in his 
cabinet but he could not find anyone to measure up to the 
office. This in the land of Jane Addams, Frances Perkins, 
Julia Lathrop, and all the rest!" With what satisfaction 
Villard must have viewed the appointment of Frances Per- 
kins as Secretary of Labor in Franklin D. Roosevelt's first 
administration. As early as 1920, Villard was critical of 
the major political parties for not allowing women full 
participation in their councils. He wrote of the Democratic 
National Convention of that year, for example, that only 
one woman was allowed to speak and this as "a sop to the 
millions of newly enfranchised Democratic voters." In 193 1 
Villard urged that women be represented at the Geneva 
Disarmament Conference to be held in the opening weeks 
of 1933. He wrote to Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson, 
inquiringly and again prophetically, "Why should not a 
woman be represented in this matter? I am sure the women 
have the greatest stake and represent one-half or more of 
the human race .... Some day the participation of women 
in international councils like this will, I am sure, be taken 
for granted." 

During the twenties, the women of America followed up 
their successful campaign for the suffrage with demands 
for freedom of movement in a number of other areas. They 
began to examine critically, for example, the institutions 
of marriage, divorce, childbearing, and birth control. Writ- 
ing in Villard's Nation in 1924, Beatrice Hinkle attempted 
to explain the moving force behind woman's latest search 
for freedom of action and expression: "Women are demand- 

86 Villard, Liberal of the ip20^s 

ing a reality in their relations with men that heretofore 
has been lacking, and they refuse longer to cater to the 
traditional notions of them created by men, in which their 
true feelings and personalities were disregarded and denied." ^ 
Women were attempting to find themselves, to attain a sense 
of individuality and fulfillment independent of the opposite 

Villard applauded, encouraged, and abetted all of these 
efforts and he was to classify the emancipation of women 
as among his more successful causes. He looked upon gains 
made on behalf of women not only in his own country but 
abroad with satisfaction in 1939, when he wrote: 

We have beheld the complete change in the status of 
women; a Hitler has tried in vain to restrict them to 
Kinder and Kuche, though not to the church. Women 
can and do conquer as much of the industrial world as 
they desire and they have penetrated deeply into the pro- 
fessions in all enlightened countries. They have captured 
advanced positions in their assaults upon the archaic laws 
which have held them in bondage — ^with some redoubts 
still to be taken. Woman now knows that her body is, 
or should be, her own; that she has rights as to her children 
and, in some countries at least, owns her own property 
free from the control of her husband. 

The twenties was a period in which increasing attention 
was focused on the problems of the American Indian, and 
considerable legislative action was taken on his behalf. 

^ "Women and the New Morality," Nation, CXIX (Novem- 
ber 19, 1924), 543. 

Noblesse Oblige: A Liberal Interpretation 87 

Groups devoted to the welfare of the Indians consolidated 
themselves in the early twenties into the American Associa- 
tion on Indian Affairs and began to draw public attention 
to their cause. The Indian Bureau of the Department of the 
Interior came under such sharp attack on its administra- 
tion of Indian affairs that in the early twenties it appointed 
an Advisory Council on Indian Affairs and a Committee of 
One Hundred Citizens to consider problems of the Indian. 
Oswald Garrison Villard was invited to become a member 
of both groups. 

The Committee of One Hundred Citizens met in con- 
ference in December of 1923. One of the issues before it 
had been raised in the annual report of the U.S. Com- 
missioner of Indian Affairs of June 30, 1923, and had become 
the center of public controversy. It dealt with the religious 
ceremonies of the Indians. The Commissioner reported that 
he had circulated a letter among the tribes suggesting that 
less time be given to religious ceremonial dances. The sug- 
gestion was seemingly motivated by economic reasons. The 
ceremonies took the Indians away from their work, some- 
times for days at a time, and their fields were thus neglected. 
And, too, some of the ceremonies required offerings, and 
individual Indians were known to sacrifice all of their live- 
stock and farm implements. There were those, however, 
who considered some of the ceremonies immoral; there 
were others who felt that they imposed hardships on women 
and children. Others, however, like John Collier, who was 
later to become United States Commissioner on Indian 
Affairs, interpreted the issue as one of religious liberty versus 
"cultural toleration." 

At the Conference of the Committee of One Hundred 
Citizens, William Jennings Bryan put forth a proposal which 

88 Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 

in ejflFect embraced governmental suppression of the Indians' 
religious ceremonies. Villard was extremely critical and in 
his objections adopted basically the attitude of Collier. Vil- 
lard viewed the proposal as an attempt at conformity, and, 
as might be expected, he was unequivocally opposed to con- 
formity. He wrote: 

The curse of "Americanization" is coming to rest upon 
the Indian as upon our immigrants. They must be made 
just like the rest of us in their fear of the future, and they 
must be stripped of all their tribal customs, culture, beliefs 
and arts. If they are not in the course of time made ab- 
solutely to conform to the standards of Main Street in 
Lincoln or Tampa it will not be Mr. Bryan's fault or that 
of most of the missionaries. Fortunately there were brave 
and outspoken words against this proposed outrage. 

It was following this meeting that Villard noted, with 
regard to what he considered the Indians' fundamental 
right to the ballot, that "the same old arguments advanced 
against the enfranchisement of negroes and women, were 
heard once more." He went on to cite the familiarity of 
the argument put forth by one member of the committee 
that some of the Indians who were too ignorant to use the 
ballot and did not really want it should not have it forced 
upon them. Villard noted, too, that the conference took no 
notice of denials to the Indians of equal protection of the 
laws. Four years later, in his plea for noblesse oblige, he 
observed that little change had taken place in the status 
of the Indians. "The Indians continue," he complained, "to 
be robbed, maltreated, denied the rights of citizens such as 
a fair trial in court, or the right to will away their property. 

Noblesse Oblige: A Liberal Interpretation 89 

or to say where and how their children shall be educated." 
Here was a great unfinished task for those who would re- 
spond to the need for public service. 

One of the most discussed public policies of the twenties 
was that of immigration. The period following the First 
World War marked the end of an epoch in United States 
immigration policy. For a century the government had 
pursued the policy of an open door for immigrants, a policy 
which the enactment of the quota laws sharply reversed. 

In 1897 Congress had passed a bill which, for the first 
time, embodied a literacy test in the selection of immigrants. 
President Grover Cleveland veteoed it. Congress renewed 
its efforts to impose such a test in the Smith-Burnett Im- 
migration Bill of William Howard Taft's administration, 
but again a Presidential veto stifled the move. In 191 5 the 
Burnett Immigration Bill was before President Woodrow 
Wilson for his signature. This bUl embodied the literacy 
test and the exclusion of those immigrants who "advocated 
and taught unlawful destruction of property." Oswald Gar- 
rison Villard was among a delegation which appeared before 
the President to protest the bill. Although the main com- 
plaint of the group was the literacy requirement, Villard 
also expressed opposition to the exclusion of those advocat- 
ing and teaching the unlawful destruction of property. His 
opposition was based on the ground that this clause would 
exclude those seeking political asylum in this country from 
oppression in their homelands. "As long as forcible revolu- 
tion is regarded as legitimate the world over," the New 
York Times reports him as saying, "it would be monstrous 
to say that we should deny asylum to foreigners who might 

90 Villard, Liberal of the i^2d's 

sit together and dream dreams on our territory of tyrants' 
yokes broken at home and foreign despots driven from their 
shores. Shall we set a premium on spies and informers?" ^ 

President Wilson vetoed the Burnett Bill and another 
similar to it in 1915. In 191 7, however, a bill embracing the 
literacy test was passed over the President's veto. Subse- 
quent amendments provided for the exclusion of "anarchists 
and all who favored the over-throw of law and government 
by force and violence." It seemed obvious to many that the 
Kteracy provision was a means not of selection but of ex- 
clusion of immigrants. The objective seemed to be that of 
curtailing the admission of immigrants from southern and 
eastern Europe. This became explicit in the Emergency 
Quota Act of 192 1 and the Quota Act of 1924, which 
limited the number of persons who might enter the United 
States in any one year from each country and established 
quotas which favored immigration from the British Isles 
and western Europe. 

Villard was bitter in commenting on the seeming lack of 
gratitude of a country which "having developed much of 
its resources by the brawn of foreigners and become rich 
thereby, it was suddenly so purse-proud as to be willing 
to cast off the 'Dutchies,' 'dagoes,' 'wops,' Chinese, Irish and 
others whom it was once so glad to welcome to its shores." 
As for banning those who advocated revolution, Villard 

We abolished by law the right of political asylum in 
America and made it a criminal offense to do what the 
Irish are doing today — to plot here for a revolution within 
another country — this in a land which gave such a royal 
reception to Kossuth and raised money by public sub- 
® Neiv York Times, Jan. 23, 191 5, p. 10, col. 8. 

Noblesse Oblige: A Liberal Interpretation 91 

scription for revolutions in Greece, Hungary, Italy and 
heaven knows how many other lands. Nothing could more 
clearly indicate the change in America — the sudden altera- 
tion of our national attitudes towards those struggling 
for liberty abroad. 

Vniard was correct in interpreting the^ new restrictions 
on immigration as a reflection of a marked change in atti- 
tude on the part of Americans toward foreigners. National- 
ism accentuated by the war, increasing competition between 
alien and native laborers, the apparent inability of some 
immigrant groups to be assimilated rapidly — all tended to 
contribute to a public opinion favoring further restriction 
of immigration. To these factors were added some rather 
specious arguments on the advisability of restrictions. One 
among them was fear for the safety of American institu- 
tions. Thus President Coolidge could argue in his State of 
the Union Address of 1923 that "American institutions 
rest solely on good citizenship. They were created by peo- 
ple who had a background of self-government. New ar- 
rivals should be limited to our capacity to absorb them into 
the ranks of good citizenship. America must be kept Ameri- 
can." Thus Representative Albert Johnson, chairman of 
the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization, 
could say in 1927 that 

Our capacity to maintain our cherished institutions stands 
diluted by a stream of alien blood, with all its inherited 
misconceptions respecting the relationships of the gov- 
erning power to the governed .... The United States 
is our land. If it was not the land of our fathers, at least 
it may be, and it should be, the land of our children. We 
intend to maintain it so. The day of unalloyed welcome 

92 Villard, Liberal of the i^zd's 

to all peoples, the day of indiscriminate acceptance of all 
races, has definitely ended.^° 

Villard, reflecting on the situation, retorted that "If men 
like Congressmen Johnson, who are now so bent on exclud- 
ing all aliens from America in pursuit of the narrow, selfish, 
nationalistic dogma of 'America for those who are already 
here,' could ever be brought to measure the contributions 
of some of the thousands who came penniless to these shores 
in foul-smelling steerage quarters, they would surely be 
shamed into something different." 

Another concern of those who advocated immigration 
restriction in the twenties was that immigrant blood might 
dilute the physical, mental, and moral qualities of Ameri- 
cans. This sentiment was implicitly reflected by President 
Hoover in his first annual message to Congress on Decem- 
ber 3, 1929, when he stated that he "hoped that we could 
find some practical method to secure what I believe should 
be our real national objective; that is, fitness of the im- 
migrant as to physique, character, training, and our need 
of service." Then there were those who, like Professor 
Henry Pratt Fairchild of New York University, tended 
to ignore the contribution of immigrants in the molding of 
America and who argued that unrestricted immigration was 
destroying American nationality, which in essence was the 
very "soul" of America. "What was being melted in the 
great Melting Pot," wrote Professor Fairchild, "losing all 
form and symmetry, all beauty and character, all nobility 
and usefulness, was the American nationality itself." ^^ 

^^ Introduction to Roy L. Garis, hmnigration Restriction 
(New York: The Macmillan Co., 1927), pp. vii-viii. 

11 Henry Pratt Fairchild, The Melti?ig Pot Mistake (Boston: 
Little, Brown & Co., 1926), p. 260. 

Noblesse Oblige: A Liberal Interpretation 93 

Such preachments were a natural consequence of racist 
ideas which were prominent during the 1920's. Numerous 
writers of that era developed a theory of the superiority 
of American Nordicism. They received their rationale and 
much of their inspiration from Madison Grant, whose 
volume entitled The Passing of the Gre,at Race was first 
published in 191 6. Grant attempted to trace the history of 
Europe in terms of hereditary impulses, predispositions, 
and tendencies distinctive of the several races. It was a 
simple matter for Henry Fairfield Osborn and Charles Stew- 
art Davison to apply Grant's thesis to the United States. 
Grant himself, observing what he considered an "alarming 
replacement of the native American," was ultimately led 
to plead for a halt in immigration: "We have lost our na- 
tional homogeneity of race, tradition and religion. All we 
have left of our splendid inheritance is our language. The 
decline of the native American rural population continues. 
The birth rate of the native American family is falling, in 
contrast to the high birth rate of the newly-arrived im- 
migrant." ^^ 

Oswald Garrison Villard's reaction to such preachments 
was to point out that "today we are in the position of a 
man who has risen to a point of vantage by a high ladder, 
and then proceeds to kick the ladder out from under him 
so that others may not ascend and take their place beside 
him." Villard was impatient also with American labor for 
its fear of competition from the immigrant, and he was 
contemptuous of what he considered the past exploitation 
of foreign labor in the United States: "We have admitted 
foreign labor freely as long as we could exploit it, utilize 

12 In Madison Grant and Charles Stewart Davison (eds.), The 
Alien in Our Midst (New York: Galton Publishing Co., 1930), 
pp. 22-23. 

94 Villard, Liberal of the i^2d*s 

it to destroy the vastness and conquer great obstacles of 
nature, open up new roads to empire, and then we have 
barricaded the doors. The modern Americanism wants a 
Chinese wall around the United States." Answering those 
who argued further that certain categories of the foreign- 
born should be excluded from the United States as "unde- 
sirables," Villard retorted that the greatest mischief-makers 
and crooks it had been his duty to "scourge" in his years 
of service to the public were those with American names. 
He pointed to Boss Matthew Quay, to Albert B. Fall and 
Harry M. Daugherty of the Teapot Dome oil-leasing scan- 
dal, to Colonel Charles R. Forbes of the Veterans' Admin- 
istration graft scandal, and to Senators William S. Vare and 
Frank L. Smith who were denied their seats in Congress 
because of excessive election expenditures. In the face of 
all these bad examples of Americans, postulated Villard, 
"we put up bars of ingratitude to our great foreign born 
and keep heaven knows how many geniuses out." 

The restriction and exclusion principles were not the only 
moves made against the alien in the twenties. In 1926, Secre- 
tary of Labor James J. Davis recommended the compulsory 
registration of aliens. An unsuccessful attempt was made 
to carry out the recommendation with the introduction of 
two bills into the House of Representatives by James B. 
Aswell of Louisiana. Those who supported the bills argued 
that they would prevent "bootlegged" immigration from 
Canada and Mexico and would give aliens who were in the 
country legally proof of their legal entry. Those opposed, 
such as Villard, considered the proposal a violation of per- 
sonal privacy and a type of police control. "I consider this 
one of the most vicious bills which I have known for many 
years," Villard wrote Senators Burton K. Wheeler, Robert 

Noblesse Oblige: A Liberal Interpretation 95 

La Follette, Gerald P. Nye, William E. Borah, George 
Norris, and others of a similar bill in 1930 known as the 
Alien Registration Bill. "It means the fingerprinting of all 
aliens and will give the police and reactionary employers 
complete control over these people. It is the first step in 
introducing old-time Russian and Prussian police methods 
into America." 

Writing on the one hundredth anniversary of the birth 
of a great German- American, Carl Schurz, Villard reflected 
upon the injustice and ingratitude of those who advocated 
the alien registration proposal: 

As these lines are written the exclusionists in Congress are 
doing their best to make the immigrant still more an out- 
cast, an object of suspicion and distrust from the hour 
of arrival, to be deported for offenses which in native- 
born citizens seem to the public all but harmless .... 
Were Carl Schurz here to celebrate his hundredth birth- 
day that would surely be his plea — justice for and trust 
in those who, as he did himself, come now to give to the 
United States a new and a fresh devotion, a quickening 
of the thinning blood of those who, born into American 
Ufe and riches, give no heed to the glory or the sacred- 
ness of traditions handed down to them. 

The various manifestations of intolerance which accom- 
panied the end of the First World War included a hatred 
of Jews and of Roman Catholics. In the minds of many 
Americans, Jews were associated with radical economic 
ideas and the Catholics were about to deliver the country 
into the hands of the Pope. 

96 Villard, Liberal of the i^zd's 

Oswald Garrison Villard, consistently the critic of in- 
tolerance wherever he found it, not surprisingly aligned 
himself on the side of Jews and Catholics whenever neces- 
sity to do so occurred. Villard was so warm a supporter 
of the Jew, that he criticized Jews, individually and as a 
group, for not fighting their own cause more forcefully. 
Speaking of Adolph Ochs and his New York Times, for 
example, Villard noted, "For not even the Jews, Mr. Ochs' 
race, has it pleaded as ardently as have others, apparently 
for fear lest it be further decried and criticized as a Jew 
paper." The taint of prejudice touched Villard's alma mater. 
Harvard College, in 1922. Harvard gave consideration to 
restricting the number of Jewish students to be admitted. 
Villard was quick to join the opposition to such a move 
among the alumni but was disappointed with the willing- 
ness on the part of Jews themselves to compromise the issue. 
He expressed his views in a letter to James Loeb: "You 
will have noticed the fight we are making against its policy 
but, as usual, we gentiles who are fighting for Jewish rights 
are handicapped by the fact that so many Jews are willing 
to accept a compromise — they say it is better to surrender 
now than to have anti-Semitism in full blast later, and total 
exclusion from certain colleges. That kind of compromise 
my Garrisonian training does not let me relish." 

One of Villard's primary concerns for Catholics and 
Jews, as it was for women and Negroes, was that they be 
allowed to hold public office. To him, discrimination in 
this area was not only intolerant and undemocratic but un- 
American and immoral as well. The 1928 presidential cam- 
paign in which Governor Alfred E. Smith of New York, 
a Roman Catholic, was the Democratic candidate provided 
occasion for great public voicing of anti-Catholicism. Vil- 

Noblesse Oblige: A Liberal Interpretation 97 

lard was disheartened by the intolerance of the campaign. 
"As for the election," he wrote William Allen White, "I 
think it is a very sad one, if only because it offers proof to 
the entire world that we are a fanatical and bigoted people." 
Villard voted for Alfred E. Smith in 1928 and did so, he 
related, solely on the ground that a Rom^n Catholic ought 
not to be denied the right to hold the highest public office 
in the United States simply because of his religion. In 1932 
he felt the same about the nomination of a Jew, Herbert 
Lehman, for the governorship of the state of New York 
on the Democratic ticket: 

I am gratified that the Democratic Party dared to nomi- 
nate a Jew for Governor, and it was a great satisfaction 
to see the Protestant Franklin Roosevelt and the Catholic 
Al Smith backing him unqualifiedly for the nomination. 
We have an enormous Jewish population in New York. 
It would be about the most un-American procedure possi- 
ble if it should come to pass that a man could not be 
nominated for the highest office in the State of New York 
because of his race. And this applies to colored men just 
as it does to Jews. The one question is, after all, whether 
a candidate is fit, whether he is honest, whether he is 
trustworthy, whether he is a true democrat, and whether 
he has vision. 

Villard's championship of the Jews did not go unnoticed 
by them. In suggesting Mr. Villard as recipient of the 
Gottheil Medal, awarded annually for meritorious service 
to the Jewish cause, Jacob Billikopf asked the editor of the 
Detroit Jewish Chronicle, "Do you know anyone in this 
country who has fought more vaUantly in behalf not 

98 Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 

only of the Jews but of racial and religious minority 
groups?" ^^ 

Of his admiration for the Jews and his gratitude for the 
support they gave him over the years in his fight for causes 
other than their own, Villard wrote that "in this hour of 
diabolical, un-Christian, psychopathic, anti-Semitic barba- 
rism, I must state the simple truth that if I had not had the 
support and encouragement of many Jews I could not have 
carried on in the measure that I did. Their idealism, their 
liberalism, their patriotism, their devotion to the cause of 
reform in the time-honored American way, heartened me in 
the hardest hours." ^* 

Relations between labor and management during the 
World War I years were marked by relative calm. In the 
interest of national security, labor had refrained from strik- 
ing and at the same time had been granted wage increases. 
The postwar years, however, were characterized by a de- 
cidedly less compromising attitude on the part of both labor 
and management. A long series of strikes and lockouts began 
in January of 1919, some of them accompanied by violence. 
Among the more important were the strike in the steel in- 
dustry, under the leadership of William Z. Foster, the Bos- 
ton police strike, and the United Mineworkers' strike, led 
by John L. Lewis. 

Labor suffered a serious defeat in the steel strike. When 

13 Letter from Jacob Billikopf, June 24, 1938, to Philip 
Slomovitz, editor of the Detroit Jewish News, files of the news- 
paper. See also editorial praising Villard in the Detroit Jewish 
Chronicle, June 17, 1938. 

1^ Villard, Fighting Years, p. 529. 

Noblesse Oblige: A Liberal Interpretation 99 

public opinion turned against it, a back-to-work movement 
got under way, and the strike was conceded a failure. At 
one time during the strike federal troops were used to estab- 
lish martial law and restrict picketing in Gary, Indiana. The 
Boston police strike, too, was a loss to labor. Calvin Coolidge, 
then Governor of Massachusetts, called 6iit the State Guard 
and requested the use of federal troops. In the face of such 
odds, the strike was brought to a close. In the case of the 
mineworkers, the federal government requested and re- 
ceived an injunction which spelled immediate defeat for 
the miners. Of the government's action in the coal strike, 
Villard wrote to Emily Balch that "politically the situation 
is perfectly disgusting and tends to make every liberal more 
and more of a revolutionist as time goes on. The action of 
the Government in the coal strike has been simply inde- 
fensible. It could not have more deliberately taken the side 
of the employers. Where shall we wind up when it is all 
over. Heaven only knows!" 

Organized labor suffered other setbacks. The public be- 
gan to identify labor unrest and leadership with foreign 
radicalism. As a result, a number of labor leaders were 
harassed and prosecuted on one charge or another. Manage- 
ment waged a campaign against what it considered the 
•excessive power of unions. Trade union membership, which 
had increased 96 per cent between 19 15 and 1920, began 
a sharp decline. The depression of 192 1, with its accom- 
panying surplus of labor, gave management the opportunity 
to show preference to nonunion workers. To observers 
sympathetic to labor, it appeared as though an attempt were 
being made to eradicate unionism in the United States. In 
January of 192 1, Villard saw reason to comment that "re- 
action is in full force. The capitalists are taking advantage 

loo Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 

of the great depression to 'stand labor up against the wall 
and take everything out of its pockets,' to quote a friend 
of mine. There is a most determined nation-wide effort to 
smash the union movement." 

From 1 919 to 1923, the state of Kansas attempted com- 
pulsory arbitration. It forbade strikes in industries which 
affected the public interest and established a Court of In- 
dustrial Relations to decide all disputes which threatened 
the public welfare. When workers resisted, their leaders 
were subject to jail sentences. Organized labor bitterly op- 
posed such compulsory arbitration on the ground that labor 
contracts imposed by authority and enforced by penalties 
amounted to slavery. Villard tended to agree: 

As a practical proposition the scheme is simply unworka- 
ble, and the very existence of a court nominally em- 
powered to determine the conditions under which wage 
workers must invest their lives acts as an irritant to those 
who long for freedom. It is time for practical men to 
face reality; the workers cannot be treated as chattels. 
Neither can they long be fooled by panaceas which give 
them a mere illusion of freedom and justice. The basis 
for industrial peace is an honest recognition of the right 
of organized workers to an increasing measure of control 
over industry. 

In 1922 railroad shopmen went on strike at the announce- 
ment that they were to suffer a wage decrease. Asserting 
that the strike interfered with interstate commerce and the 
mails. Attorney General Harry M. Daugherty succeeded 
in obtaining a restraining order which forbade just about 

Noblesse Oblige: A Liberal Interpretation loi 

every conceivable activity connected with the conduct of 
a strike. Villard called the injunction vicious and editorial- 
ized about "Government by Daugherty." 

That injunction, sweeping as it was, tends in retrospect 
to dramatize the whole issue of the use of the temporary 
injunction as a weapon against labor whibb became so com- 
mon during the 1920's. Conservative courts, eager to pro- 
tect private property, issued injunctions restraining labor 
from such activities as engaging in strikes, assembling to act 
or organize for a strike, paying strike benefits, engaging 
in boycotts, picketing, adopting rules against the handling 
of goods by nonunion labor, and making trade agreements 
with employers stipulating the employment of union labor 
only and the production of goods under union conditions. 
The list is not exhaustive. Temporary injunctions required 
neither hearing nor trial, but violations were punished as 
contempt of court. Most strikes were broken before hear- 
ings could be held on the question of making the injunctions 
permanent. Villard pointed out quite correctly that under 
these conditions labor was helpless. It was futile to think 
that organized labor could exist if its right to organize and 
strike could be so restricted. "The very life of unions," 
wrote Villard, "depends on such activities, and if the state 
can forbid them the workers are back in the helpless posi- 
tion of the early days of the industrial revolution." Villard 
proceeded to lecture labor on the duty of civil disobedience: 

What men once endured to abolish chattel slavery some 
men in the ranks of labor must do to end industrial peon- 
age. The pioneers of labor's emancipation may have to 
practice the high duty of civil disobedience though they 

I02 Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 

share the fate of Gene Debs and with him have to test in 
their own person the truth of Thoreau's great words: 
"Under a government which imprisons any unjustly the 
true place for a just man is also a prison. . . . how much 
more eloquently and effectively he can combat injustice 
who has experienced a little in his own person." 

In 1926 and 1927, the woolen mills of Passaic and Pater- 
son, New Jersey, were the center of extended labor unrest 
and a fourteen-month strike over low wages and poor work- 
ing conditions. During those months there were physical 
clashes between police and strikers. Strike leaders and sym- 
pathizers were arrested, and there were indications of 
abridgement of civil liberties on the part of local authori- 
ties. Among those arrested were Villard's good friend Nor- 
man Thomas and Robert Dunn, an associate of Villard's in 
American Civil Liberties Union work. Villard was quick 
to offer 1 2 0,000 bail on their behalf. The Riot Act under 
which many of the arrests were made was applied to deny 
freedom of speech and of assembly. Villard, in warm sup- 
port of the strikers, wired James P. Cannon, secretary of the 
International Labor Defense Committee, as follows: 

In nearly thirty years of active journalism I do not recall 
a dose of labor trouble in which there has been a worse 
abuse of authority than this one in Passaic and Patterson. 
The complete denial of civil Hberty ought to make any 
American who values his birthright rise in protest. The 
authorities have not only misused their powers in the 
most arrogant and unconstitutional way, but they have 
by their partisanship and one-sidedness done everything 
to incite the strikers, and their refraining from violence 

Noblesse Oblige: A Liberal Interpretation 103 

in face of brutal police clubbings reflects the greatest 
credit upon them and their leaders. They deserve all possi- 
ble moral and financial support. 

While Villard was generally sympathetic to labor, he 
never assumed the attitude of labor, right or wrong. Any 
method used by labor which hinted at violence, for ex- 
ample, he could not condone. Many of labor's policies he 
thought were in the best interests of neither labor nor the 
country. Particular among these were labor's position on 
immigration restriction and on tariffs. Expressing his dis- 
pleasure with labor on these issues, Villard wrote a British 

You are quite right about the stupidity of labor as to the 
tariff, but your crowd are intelligence itself compared 
with ours. The American Federation of Labor in its annual 
session has just come out for much higher tariffs, espe- 
cially on agricultural products. If they had their way, we 
should immediately enact your Corn Laws. In every re- 
spect they are among our greatest reactionaries. They are, 
for instance, behind the restriction of immigration and 
the limitation of jobs. I sometimes wonder if there is a 
single economic fallacy which they have not embraced. 

Villard was sympathetic to a strong and independent 
organization of workers primarily because he considered 
such an organization a necessary counterbalance to the 
power of big business in its relation to its workers. He 
felt a keen sense of injustice at the great divergence of wealth 
and income which existed in the United States. Villard also 
looked upon unionism as an additional restraint on a gov- 

104 Villard, Liberal of the ip20^s 

ernment which might, in the absence of such a force, be 
either inconsiderate of or unresponsive to the mass of the 
people. Effective democracy necessitated that the masses 
have media, apart from the vote alone, by which to guide 
governmental action, by which to express their needs and 
desires. He looked upon labor unions as serving as one such 


Toward Morc^ 
Political Democracy 

"There is nothing sacred or sacrosanct about our existing 
form of government," wrote Oswald Garrison Villard. "It 
must be modified from time to time as conditions change." 
Thus Villard reflects a basic characteristic of American 
liberalism — that of pragmatism, which requires that all social 
institutions be evaluated in terms of their practical conse- 
quences for democratic ideals. In this context, liberals are, 
as Gilbert Murray has described them, skeptics. "Always," 
he states, "you will find the great mass of the people believ- 
ing, the popularity hunters pretending to believe, and the 
liberals questioning, those accepted traditions." ^ If found 
lacking, it follows for the liberal that social institutions must 
be changed. And the American liberal has shown a persistent 
and confident belief that change, and therefore progress, was 
always within the realm of possibility. Because he believed 
in the mutability of institutions, the American liberal has 
often been described as being experimentally minded in 
politics, eager to try new approaches which in turn are sub- 
ject to review and discard. The liberal has little patience 

1 Murray, op. cit., p. 22. 


io6 Villard, Liberal of the ip2o''s 

with those who show doubt about the untried. "The mere 
fact that it has not been done before," Villard maintained, 
"is surely not a ground for saying it cannot be done." 

Villard's confidence in experimentation in the period 
of the twenties was perhaps best reflected in his attitude 
toward the changes occurring in Soviet Russia at the time. 
On his return from a trip to Russia, where he observed 
first hand what was taking place there, Villard urged 
United States recognition of Russia and defended as "wis- 
dom and common sense" allowing the Russians to work 
out the changes they deemed necessary in their life. "For 
it is without question," he wrote of the Russian effort, 
"the greatest human experiment ever undertaken. This, 
of course, entirely apart from the question whether one 
believes or does not believe in communism." 

But Villard emphatically rejected Soviet methods of im- 
plementing the desired changes — methods which he de- 
scribed as those of "savagely crushing their critics or op- 
ponents, . . . shooting, imprisoning, and exiling . . . the 
methods of a Caesar, a Cromwell, a Franz Josef, a Nicholas, 
and a Mussolini." For the American liberal, however much 
he desired reform, has been dedicated to the belief that 
men are sufficiently rational to be able to modify their social 
institutions in favor of more progressive ones without re- 
sort to violence. Positing a need for social reorganization in 
America after the First World War, Villard made it clear 
that, as far as he was concerned, the use of force was not 
the proper means to that end: "We must surely all unite 
to preach the doctrine that it is utterly wrong to try to upset 
or alter this government by force .... It is a mighty poor 
American and a stupid, dull reformer who lets himself be- 
lieve that the way to get a better country is to organize it 
by bullets or the cowardly infernal machine." 

Toward More Political Democracy 107 

Ten years later, commenting on the crisis resulting from 
the stock market crash of 1929, Villard said, "Frankly, it 
seems to me that the time has come for revolt; a peaceful 
revolution, but none the less revolution." In advocating 
"peaceful revolution," Villard voiced the liberals' commit- 
ment to democratic methods of effecting Social changes — 
a commitment which is the natural consequence of the in- 
nate faith and confidence of the American liberal in demo- 
cratic processes. Villard recognized that the democratic 
method is a slow one, but he was willing to progress slowly 
because, he said, "I am still of the opinion that our in- 
stitutions could be made to work." Thus he rejected far- 
reaching, comprehensive plans for social change. Writing 
to former Senator Albert J. Beveridge in 1922, Villard ex- 
pressed his impatience with those who demanded radical 
reform: "I am constantly confronted by people who demand 
a complete program for the future of the coming regenera- 
tion of the country. To them, I verily have to reply, that 
anybody who can do that should be put into the White 
House at once and that we must grope our way step by 
step." These same sentiments were to be reflected some ten 
years later by Franklin D. Roosevelt when he is reported 
to have exclaimed to his aides, "No blueprints." They rep- 
resent the liberal technique of adapting a concrete program 
of action to existing conditions and institutions. It is this 
perhaps which has led to the oft-repeated criticism that 
liberals have been without any program of action. Those 
who make this criticism fail to take into consideration the 
natural consequences of the pragmatic temper which re- 
jects absolutes. 

To the liberal mind, nothing is immune from the thera- 
peutic value of change. The liberal would as soon change 
the machinery of government as the people who run that 

io8 Villard, Liberal of the i^ids 

machinery. The American liberal has often been as prone 
to recommend changes in the functions of government as 
to change his political party. But throughout liberal pro- 
posals, the basic assumptions of democracy remain the same, 
and the liberal has preferred to work within the framework 
of the Constitution. Dedicated thus to both change and con- 
stitutional government, the liberal has advocated the orderly 
revision of the Constitution as well as a broad construction 
of it; dedicated to accomplishing his objectives within 
the framework of free institutions, the American liberal 
has moved to improve and perfect the machinery of govern- 
ment and to extend political democracy in the direction of 
achieving more direct government. Thus he has sought more 
responsible and more responsive political institutions. 

Viewing the Constitution, President, Congress, and courts 
as "tools" in the achievement of social purpose, the Ameri- 
can liberal has tended to evaluate them in terms of the re- 
sults they produce. Villard, in the twenties, found them 
all lacking. The Constitution, "originally drawn for a few 
struggling newly emancipated Colonies and now applied 
to the most powerful and industrially most highly developed 
country in the world," was in need of revision: the three 
branches of government were to one degree or another in- 
effective and irresponsible. 

Villard's concern over the Presidency was more often 
directed at the man than at the office. Generally speaking, 
he favored a strong but not all-powerful Executive. His 
quarrels with the two Roosevelts, Woodrow Wilson, and 
Herbert Hoover were not over the powers they had as- 
sumed but over their failure to use the power at their dis- 

Toward More Political Democracy 109 

posal to achieve certain reforms which Villard favored. Of 
Hoover's failure to recognize Russia, for example, Villard 
complained, "Man after man comes from the White House 
and declares privately that he is certain that Mr. Hoover 
would personally like to recognize Russia, but feels that 
he cannot because public opinion is not yet ready for it. 
But for what is a President there except to organize and 
lead public opinion in the direction in which his conscience 
tells him to go?" ^ 

Because he thought that direct nomination and election 
of the President and Vice President would strengthen their 
positions and make them more responsive to the electorate, 
Villard, throughout the twenties, supported presidential 
primaries. On the other hand, he urged, with varying de- 
grees of firmness, measures which would make Congress 
more independent of the Executive. He suggested to Senator 
George Norris, for example, that a secret ballot in Congress 
would protect legislators not only from the fanatics on 
both sides of vital issues, but from the President as well. 
"I do not believe, for instance," wrote Villard, "that Con- 
gress would have put us into the war if there could have 
been a secret vote to which the President did not have 

In 1925 Villard had opportunity to congratulate the 
Senate openly on taking an independent stand against 
President Calvin Coolidge. The occasion was the nomina- 
tion by the President of Charles B. Warren of Michigan 
to the position of Attorney General. The Senate twice re- 
fused its consent to the appointment because Warren was 
charged with having defended the actions of his client, the 
Michigan Sugar Trust, in violating the antitrust laws. Villard 
commented in the Nation, "Nothing, in my judgment, has 

no Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 

honored the Senate more than its display of independence 
in this matter. To see Borah, Johnson, Norris and Mac- 
Master . . . refusing to obey the crack of the President's 
whip is to make one wish to throw up one's hat and give 
three hearty cheers." 

Again, with a view to checking the Executive, Villard 
favored the use of congressional investigating committees, 
or at least those originating in the Senate. Fresh in his mind, 
in the spring of 1925, was the Teapot Dome scandal: "One 
of the most important recent developments, one of the few 
successful methods of coping with the demoralizing possi- 
bilities of the growing bureaucracy, is the institution of the 
Senate investigating committees. It takes able men to root 
out corruption as the two Montana Senators did last 

While generally sympathetic to the Presidency, Villard 
was much more critical of Congress. In a speech early in 
1930 before the League for Independent Political Action, 
he described congressional efforts in one area as follows: 

As for the Congress, it is as much adrift as is the Executive. 
For fourteen months it has been trying to give birth to 
a tariff bill and it is still in labor. Parturition has, however, 
gone quite far enough to make it clear that what is com- 
ing to life is an abortive monstrosity which ought to take 
its place in circus side-shows with the five-legged calfs, 
bulls with two heads, and other complete abnormalities. 

Of the two Chambers, Villard found the Senate the more 
responsible. The House he regarded as having sunk almost 

Toivard More Political Democracy iii 

into obscurity. "No Washington correspondent," he wrote, 
"goes to its press gallery save on rare occasions; the rep- 
resentatives of the press associations alone attend regularly; 
its proceedings figure little in the press; it contains only a 
few men with national reputations." 

The reasons, to Villard's mind, for this decline of the 
House were threefold: its rules limiting debate; the fact 
that a majority steering committee guided parliamentary 
procedure, thus expediting the adoption of special rules 
to favor particular legislation; and the factors surrounding 
the election of Representatives. Of these causes, the latter 
seemed to him to be the most significant. 

The fact that a member of the House is elected from 
a single-member district and is traditionally a resident of the 
district which he represents, coupled with the practice 
of gerrymandering, Villard pointed out, had resulted not 
only in considerable localism in American politics but in 
control of districts by bosses and machines. In comparing 
the American system of government with that of Great 
Britain, he remarked that "the advantages are plainly largely, 
if not wholly, on the side of the British system. Thus the 
intending candidate for Parliament does not have to stand 
in the district in which he lives . . . He does not have to 
go hat in hand to a party boss for permission to run." In 
answer to the argument that party discipline and loyalty 
are necessary to responsible government, Villard's only 
reply was that "it would seem as if the choice were between 
party regularity [as practiced in the United States] and 
legislative inefficiency and mediocrity." In contemplating 
congressional reform, Villard once stated that "so far as 
Congress is concerned, I should insist upon the seating of 
the Cabinet upon the floor of the Congress, and I should 

112 Villard, Liberal of the igid's 

make it possible for a man of ability to run for Congress in 
any district, and not necessarily in the district in which he 
was a resident." 

Other aspects of representation in the House of Rep- 
resentatives were publicly aired in the controversy over the 
seating of Socialist Victor Berger in 19 19, 1920, and 1922 — 
a matter which elicited a storm of protest from Villard and 
his Nation. Villard was critical of what he considered the 
imposition by the House of extraconstitutional qualifications 
for membership, an imposition which resulted in a denial of 
the Representative of their choice to the people of Berger's 
congressional district. 

With the exception of Eugene Debs, Victor Berger was 
the most prominent person convicted under the Espionage 
Act of 1917. Berger, editor of the Milwaukee Leader, was 
a founder of the Socialist Party in the United States and 
was its first member to be elected to Congress (1911-13). 
Berger was a pacifist in the sense that he was opposed to 
war except in the case of actual invasion. He was a signatory 
to the Socialist Party's Proclamation and War Program of 
April 14, 191 7, which branded the declaration of war 
as a crime against the people of the United States and the 
nations of the world and stated that in all modern history 
there had been no war more unjustifiable. In pursuance of 
the Socialist Party's platform declaration calling for con- 
tinuous, active, and public opposition to the war, Berger, 
through editorials, articles, and cartoons in the Leader, 
denounced the war policies of the government. 

In September of 19 17 the Leader was deprived of its 
second-class mailing privilege by the Postmaster General, 
and in February of 19 18 Berger was indicted for con- 
spiracy under the Espionage Act. The following November, 

Toivard More Political Democracy 113 

still awaiting trial, Berger was elected to the House of Rep- 
resentatives from Wisconsin's Fifth Congressional District. 
A month later, he was found guilty of sedition and dis- 
loyalty and sentenced to twenty years in prison, the maxi- 
mum sentence under the Espionage Act, by Judge Kenesaw 
Mountain Landis. Berger appealed his case and was released 
on bail. Thus he was able to appear in the House in the 
spring of 19 19 to take his seat. His qualifications for mem- 
bership, however, were challenged, and the question was 
referred to a special committee under the chairmanship of 
Representative Frederick W. Dallinger (Republican of Mas- 
sachusetts). This committee subsequently reported against 
seating Berger, and the House adopted its report, necessitat- 
ing a special election in Wisconsin the following December 
to fill the vacancy. The voters of Milwaukee returned Victor 
Berger to the House. Once again, in January of 1920, the 
House refused to seat him. It was not until he had been 
elected a third time that Berger was allowed to assume his 
seat. This was in 1922, and there was not a single dissenting 
vote. In the meantime, however, the Supreme Court had 
set aside his conviction and sentence under the Espionage 
Act on the ground of prejudicial conduct on the part of 
the judge, and the Department of Justice had dropped the 
espionage charges against him. 

Villard fought his battle for Berger on two counts: first, 
on the matter of what constituted disloyalty, and Villard 
did not believe Berger had been disloyal; second, on the 
question of whether or not Congress had the right to refuse 
Berger his seat and the dangers to our institutions implicit 
in such a power. 

In writing to Representative Frederick W. Dallinger, on 
July 19, 191 9, Villard remonstrated: 

114 Villard, Liberal of the i^zd^s 

May I say to you how disastrous I think it would be 
if Victor Berger should be disqualified for his seat in 
Congress on the strength of his conviction in Chicago. If 
the House of Representatives is going to lay down the 
rule that it shall pass upon the individual qualifications 
aside from the election of men sent to Congress, there 
is going to be established a most dangerous precedent 
which will go far towards undermining our institutions 
and add greatly to the tremendous unrest of the country. 

Villard was convinced that this denial to a people of their 
chosen Representative could be duplicated in no other 
country, "Even the King of Bavaria," he reminded Dallinger, 
"let Kurt Eisner out of prison when he became a candidate 
for the Reichstag." 

Villard's anger rose in the following months, and in 
December of 19 19, just before the special election in which 
Berger was returned to the House, the New York Times 
reported that Villard was ready for action. He was urging 
through the columns of the Socialist daily, the Leader, that 
if Berger was returned and Congress again refused to seat 
him, the followers of Berger should march on Washington 

and stage a demonstration at the White House. Villard's 


purpose was to make a national issue of the case and to 
rally public opinion around the issue of Congress subverting 
the wish and the right of the voters of Milwaukee to send 
a Representative of their choice to Washington. Villard, 
who, the New York Times was careful to point out, "de- 
clares he is not a Socialist," stated his case: "The question 
of whether the lawyers of Congress should be permitted 
deliberately to slap the voters of the Fifth District in the 
face by depriving them of the right to have their own rep- 

Toivard More Political Democracy 115 

resentative in Congress should be made a national issue. 
Any attempt to subvert the will of the voters in the Fifth 
District would find liberty lovers all over the land register- 
ing their protest most emphatically." 

Berger was returned, and Congress did reject him a 
second time; but there is no evidence that the proposed 
demonstration ever took place. In his own columns in the 
Nation, there was no mention of a demonstration, and 
Villard couched the issue in somewhat more reserved 

Congress has established a most dangerous precedent 
in barring Mr. Berger because of its dislike of his opinion 
as to the war and the future constitution of society. If 
Mr. Berger is again unseated in the face of this vote by 
his constituents the House of Representatives will have 
laid down the rule that in a case where no question of 
fraud or illegal election has arisen it has the right to say 
what man shall or shall not represent the Fifth Con- 
gressional District of Wisconsin . . . Mr. Berger's dis- 
trict knew exactly what kind of man it was electing; it 
was fully informed of the charges against him and his 
sentence by the Federal Court. A majority of its voters 
have chosen him with their eyes open because they like 
and believe in Victor Berger and what he stands for. 

Yet another aspect of representation in Congress that 
irritated Villard concerned the Negro in the South. Because 
the South was effectively denying the vote to the Negro 
through one means or another, not only did the southern 
Congressman not truly represent the population of his 
district, but the vote of the southerner who did enjoy the 

ii6 Villard, Liberal of the ip20^s 

privilege was enhanced. The end result was that the strength 
and power of those who voted in the South was out of 
proportion to that of the voters in other sections of the 
country. Speaking out against the disfranchisement of the 
Negro by the election laws of the South, Villard pointed 
up the problem: 

The result of this is a most outrageous disproportion 
in the power of the Southerners who vote for Congress- 
men in comparison with those who vote elsewhere. Thus, 
in South Carolina less than 10,000 people elected a Con- 
gressmen [sic], whereas every New York Congressman 
represents on an average 67,338 New Yorkers. In Califor- 
nia every Congressman speaks for 85,759 voters. The 
south with its tiny vote is represented in Washington by 
forty-five Congressmen while all of New England with 
its much larger vote has only thirty-two. 

To Villard this was clearly a violation of the spirit of the 
apportionment provisions of both Article I of the Con- 
stitution and the Fourteenth Amendment. However, it was 
only one of several violations. Another provision which the 
House of Representatives itself was clearly guilty of violat- 
ing, argued Villard in 1928, was that in Article I, section 2, 
which provides that reapportionment take place every ten 
years. The only period in American history when reap- 
portionment did not take place was in the twenties. After 
the 1920 census. Congress had become deadlocked over 
the mathmatical formula upon which to base the reappor- 
tionment. Villard, in September before the 1928 elections, 
expressed the fear that "the entire election for Congress next 
November may be invalidated because the House itself 
has refused to abide by the plain language of the Con- 

Toward More Political Democracy 1 1 7 

stitution." The subsequent Reapportionment Act of 1929 
was to provide for automatic reapportionment should Con- 
gress fail to act in the future. 

The Senate, unlike the House, in Villard's view, generally 
attracted men of force and ability who commanded public 
attention. It was in the Senate, argued Villard, that the only 
significant debate took place. The Senate, therefore, was 
worth the time and attention of a journalist: "The Senate 
is the one place where they get hope and encouragement, 
where they can learn, where there is some color, some life, 
some vigor, some truth-telling, some hope of substantial 
achievement and much independence." It was fear that 
Limitation of debate in the Senate would destroy that body's 
effectiveness that moved Villard to fight vigorously the 
plan of Vice President Charles G. Dawes, when he assumed 
the presidency of the Senate in 1925, to limit Senate debate. 
To Villard's mind, Dawes was proposing to "bridle the 
only important debating body in the world that did not 
regularly use cloture of debate." 

Villard's main criticism of the Senate centered about the 
localism which he detected influencing the actions of Sena- 
tors. In a Nation series entitled "My Dear Senator," Villard 
took occasion to lecture his senatorial readers on the im- 
morality of localism and its infringement on duty. With 
tariffs as his particular shibboleth, Villard asked, "Why is 
it that you . . . cannot see that when you are supporting 
this protective system you are committing an immoral act; 
that it is grossly immoral for a man to lend himself to a 
system which is steadily corrupting our political and eco- 
nomic life on the ground that as long as other people are 

ii8 Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 

getting graft his clients are also entitled to it?" Villard re- 
buked the Senators for considerations of expedience rather 
than a concern for constructive legislation and reform. He 
exhorted them to become martyrs if necessary for their 
cause and their conscience: 

What does it avail a man to save his election and lose his 
soul if there burns within it the desire to strike out on 
new lines and his conscience tells him to do it? Must you 
always let "I dare not" wait upon "I would"? Is there a 
single moral or economic reform recorded in history 
that was not carried through by men who forgot en- 
tirely to ask themselves how far their perilous advocacy 
would get them, who cheerfully had their heads chopped 
off if necessary to advance their causes? 

Henry Steele Commager, in discussing the contributions 
of outstanding American liberals from the Populists to 
Franklin D. Roosevelt, argues that the acid test of their 
pragmatism was their commonly shared "attitude toward 
that symbol of traditionalism, the judiciary. As they looked 
upon the Constitution as a tool rather than a symbol, so 
they regarded the court not as a Delphic Oracle but as a 
political institution." ^ Certainly the liberals in Congress 
in the twenties — Borah, Norris, La Follette, and Wheeler, 
to name a representative few — were in accord with that 
view, as was Oswald Garrison Villard. 

During the twenties the federal judiciary was under- 

2 Henry Steele Commager, The Afnerican Mhid (New 
Haven: Yale University Press, 1950), p. 337. 

Tonuard More Political Deinocracy 119 

going a period of conservatism. In a series of decisions 
handed down between 19 17 and 1927, the Supreme Court 
declared among other things that the federal Child Labor 
Law was unconstitutional; stock dividends were not income; 
the Clayton Act did not prevent the use of injunctions in 
labor disputes; an Arizona law prohibiting injunctions was 
unconstitutional, the District of Columbia minimum-wage- 
f or- women law was unconstitutional; and the New York 
criminal anarchy and California criminal syndicalist laws 
were vaHd. 

Leading liberals fought this conservatism on the ground 
that the court was employing its prerogative of judicial re- 
view to exalt property rights at the expense of human rights. 

When President Calvin Coolidge in August of 1927 de- 
clared that he did not care to run for re-election, he un- 
wittingly brought on an avalanche of open criticism of 
the Court. The Coolidge statement led to the usual specula- 
tion about whom the Republicans would then select to 
be their presidential nominee. The name of Charles Evans 
Hughes was mentioned widely in the press, much to the 
distress of many liberals who feared the extent to which 
Hughes carried his belief in the protection of property 
rights. Villard's Nation related: 

The Washington newspaper correspondents testified to 
his accessibihty, to the extraordinary lucidity and ability 
with which he expounded his ideas — and the skill with 
which he overwhelmed those who dared to doubt the 
completeness and the correctness of his creed that the 
sacred right of private property is the foundation of the 
family and the family the cornerstone of the state. 

I20 Villard, Liberal of the igzo^s 

Villard was particularly worried about the impact the 
election of Hughes to the Presidency would have on a 
federal court which he felt had already assumed more than 
its rightful power. He warned his readers that if Hughes 
were elected President "there would be ... no raising of 
the issue as to whether the courts or the people rule this 

Three years later Villard was to be among those who 
attempted unsuccessfully to defeat the appointment of 
Hughes to the Chief Justiceship of the Supreme Court. 
Meanwhile Villard charged that the Court harbored judges 
who were the "creatures" of corporate wealth. The Court, 
far from being the responsible public agency it was de- 
signed to be, was, in Villard's view, being manipulated by 
special interests. 

The Court was also attacked during this period on the 
ground that it was usurping through judicial review the 
legislative function of deciding which social legislation 
was desirable and which was undesirable. Villard com- 
mented on this aspect of the matter in a letter to former 
Senator Albert J. Beveridge of Indiana as early as 1922: 
"The extension of the righteous function of the judge into 
other fields is naturally producing a bitter attack, and I 
feel very strongly that our judges have got to get back 
to the law as it is expounded in England." Liberal criticism 
of the Court during the twenties was primarily directed at 
a Court which the liberals felt was being used for private 
rather than public purposes. Their solution was twofold: 
a constitutional amendment giving Congress the power to 
override a Supreme Court decision, and the direct election 
of federal judges for limited terms. These proposals were 
among the platform pledges of Robert M. La Follette in the 

Toward More Political Democracy 121 

presidential campaign of 1924 and were endorsed by Villard 
as he actively campaigned for La Follette. 

Like that of the Progressives before him, Villard's con- 
cern over government did not begin and end at the national 
level but extended to state and local government as well. 

The twenties was a period in which the principle of civil 
service was gradually being adopted at the state and local 
level of government, and Villard saw in its extension a 
means of getting better government. Villard was insistent 
that "here is a reform of the utmost importance which 
few people understand, the lack of which is in amazingly 
large degree responsible for the inelEiiciency and the cor- 
ruption of Amerian Government." He argued that it ought 
to permeate all levels of the governmental structure: "The 
extension of the merit system to cover at least 98% of 
the offices in any political unit, whether municipal. State 
or national, would enormously tone up and purify our 
whole life, and at one blow place us on even terms with 
the other modern countries of the world." In Villard's view, 
a basic ingredient of good government was "good" men. 
He meant "good" in the moral sense, and his was a never- 
ending hope for such a quality in political office. The twen- 
ties, however, brought him some disillusionment with the 
old reform program of changing the men instead of the 
fundamental conditions: 

I have often been accused of yielding to misguided en- 
thusiasm for public men and believing that in this one 
or in that one a political savior was at hand, and I must 
plead guilty to the charge until Woodrow Wilson and 

122 Villard, Liberal of the ip20^s 

Ramsay MacDonald cured me of that habit. Probably 
I did stress too much getting a "good man" into high 
office rather than changing the fundamental conditions. 
That was partly because McKinley proved how easy it 
was for a foolish, weak, or unfaithful man in the White 
House to alter all by himself the whole policy of the 
country. Moreover, it takes many years to alter funda- 
mental economic conditions or the governmental struc- 
ture, so one always hopes for a short cut.^ 

In spite of his claim to being "cured" of the belief that 
men were the chief cause of the failure of governmental 
institutions, Villard never wholly relinquished that view. He 
never stopped pleading for better men in government. In 
reiterating his faith in democracy and the workability of 
American institutions in 1932, Villard maintained that "the 
fault, in my judgment, has been less with the economic and 
political system under which we have lived than with the 
men that we have chosen to work it." At about that same 
time but on a separate occasion, Villard said, "I am still 
of the opinion that our institutions could be made to work 
if the men we entrust with their management had only 
intellectual honesty, some shreds of political decency, some 
real patriotism and courage, and some understanding of 
what is going on in the world." Ideahstic though Villard 
may have been in wanting men of morals to rule, it is 
obvious that he was realistic enough to observe that angels 
had not yet assumed command. 

On the municipal level, Villard was enthusiastic over the 
city manager plan which would make the job of the muni- 
cipal executive a "scientific" or "professional" one and 

3 Villard, Fighting Years, p. 183. 

Toward More Political Democracy 123 

thus remove it from political control. He felt, like many 
other reformers of his day, that the problem of ineffective 
government could be met in part with new institutions. 
Villard's hopes for what the city manager plan would ac- 
complish were expressed in a speech at Waterbury, New 
York, on December 4, 1932: 

Our problem in America therefore boils down to this: 
How can we rescue our cities from the corruption and 
inefficiency in which most of them wallow, and turn 
over our municipalities to genuine experts free from 
all political influence, and yet at the same time maintain 
the democratic form of government? . . . most of us 
feel that it is possible to retain the forms of democracy 
in full vigor, and yet obtain the expert non-partisan 
honest and efficient leadership which we all crave. The 
task is, of course, not beyond the abilities of Americans. 

Thus Villard reflected well the liberal acceptance of change, 
experimentation, and faith in the democratic process. 

While the attempt to achieve more responsible public 
officials and institutions has characterized American liber- 
alism, so too has an effort to achieve more responsive in- 
stitutions. American liberals have persistently sought prac- 
tical devices by which to maximize the consent of the 
governed. Striving to extend popular control over public 
officials, they have fought for the initiative, referendum, 
recall, and direct nomination and popular election of the 
President and members of the Senate. The extension of 
democracy through wider participation of the electorate 

124 Villard, Liberal of the i^zo^s 

has been the primary objective; but some, like Villard, be- 
lieved these procedures would also add protection against 
abuses in the democratic system. "The best cure for the 
evils of democracy," argued Villard, "is not less democracy, 
but more of it." He saw in the extension of democracy 
through such measures an additional means for keeping 
the state the servant rather than the master of the people. 
Villard was reflecting the liberal belief that consensus is 
possible and that reliance on that consensus obviates govern- 
ment by coercion. He argued that by granting these ad- 
ditional procedures through which the people could assume 
a greater share in governing themselves they would be ren- 
dered less prone to turn "to some totally new system, per- 
haps to Communism itself." Villard, whose views generally 
presented as great an antithesis as could be found to those 
of William Randolph Hearst, was in accord with Hearst 
on the desirability of the initiative, referendum, recall, and 
direct primaries. For Villard these were among the few 
good things Hearst stood for and for which Villard was 
willing to pay tribute, but he could not resist charging that 
in Hearst they were "all tarnished by self-interest, by self- 

Writing in June of 1920, the initiative, referendum, and 
presidential primary were among the "ghosts" of ideals 
which Villard predicted would be present at the forthcom- 
ing Democratic National Convention in San Francisco. By 
1927, the reform in question had still not been achieved. 
"Where are the causes that Woodrow Wilson and Theo- 
dore Roosevelt championed in 19 12 and until we went 
into the war," inquired Villard? "There lie promises un- 
fulfilled, a program shattered; a new way of life uncham- 
pioned today, yes, forgotten . . . Who speaks now of the 

Toward More Political Democracy 125 

referendum, recall, and initiative . . . Who demands that 
the people shall master their government?" 

These liberal efforts to extend political democracy are 
rooted deeply in the liberal faith in the judgment of average 
people and their ability to govern themselves — a faith the 
wellspring of which are the humanism, individualism, and 
rationalism which contribute to the philosophic basis of 
the American liberal spirit. Indeed, Louis Hartz has char- 
acterized these efforts as being based on the liberal tenet of 

Why smash bosses and elect senators directly? Why 
get rid of Croker and Quay? The answer was: to give 
every last individual an equal chance to govern, and if 
you throw in the initiative, referendum, recall, and long 
ballot, to give him a chance to govern in practically 
every situation. Here was the equity of the Alger world 
flowering into politics.* 

* Louis Hartz, The Liberal Tradition in Avterica (New York: 
Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1955), p. 240. 


^cst for a Liberal Party 

The desire of the liberals for more responsive and more 
responsible governmental institutions led to efforts to 
achieve more "direct" government as well as to their ad- 
vocating changes in existing governmental institutions. Lib- 
erals like Oswald Garrison Villard, however, were not 
content with these efforts alone. They evidenced concern 
for the omitted third dimension of Madison's well-worn 
statement that "in framing a government which is to be 
administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in 
this: you must first enable the government to control 
the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control 
itself."^ American liberals have thus recognized that po- 
litical power could be abused in spite of internal checks 
and balances. Forces outside of government, they concluded, 
must be brought into play to control the government. Ex- 
ternal restraints were necessary to guide the use, as well 
as to check the abuse, of political power. 

It was the voluntary citizen organization that many 
liberals accepted as the most efficacious external device for 
influencing government. The voluntary organizations pro- 

^ The Federalist (New York: Modern Library, Inc.), No. 51, 

P- 337- 


Quest for a Liberal Party 127 

vided a medium for the expression of opposition to or 
support of public policy. They provided a means through 
which a minority could participate in community affairs, 
thus rendering them some protection against arbitrary acts 
of the majority. They represented a medium apart from 
the vote through which the civic-minded citizen could 
participate in and influence public affairs. 

That Oswald Garrison Villard had confidence in the 
efficacy of voluntary organizations is attested by the long 
list of groups to which he belonged over the years. In many, 
he held office. Among them — and it is not claimed that the 
list is exhaustive — were the following: 

Alien Registration Committee 

American Civil Liberties Union 

American League to Limit Armaments 

American Society for Promoting Efficiency in Every 
Activity of Man 

American Union against Aiilitarism 

Anti-Imperialist League 

Church Peace Union 

Citizen's Committee of One Hundred on Behalf of Pull- 
man Porters and Maids 

Committee for a State PoHce 

Committee of One Hundred on Ireland 

Committee on Militarism in Education 

Council against Intolerance in America (Villard resigned 
early in 1940 because of the council's position on 
Charles Lindbergh and Senator Gerald P. Nye. Villard 
was convinced that the charges of anti-Semitism against 
them were unfounded.) 

Democratic League of New York 

128 Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 

Emergency Committee for Striker's Relief 

Friends of Freedom for India 

Germanistic Society (Villard resigned from the society 
because it would not protest Nazi activities in Ger- 

Haiti-Santo Domingo Independence Society 

Keep America Out of War Congress 

League for Independent Political Action 

Men's League for Woman's Suffrage 

National Association for the Advancement of Colored 

National Committee Against Payment of the Bonus 

National Peace Conference 

New York Peace Society 

New York Progressive Party 

People's Lobby to Fight for the People 

Postwar World Council 

Sacco-Vanzetti National League 

Society of Political Science in the City of New York 

Special Committee for Protection of the Foreign-Born 

The Urban League 

Women's International League for Peace and Freedom 

In short, Villard could be depended upon for support of 
almost any association which he considered in the interest 
of reform. Indeed, writing in 1920 in defense of the Com- 
mittee of One Hundred on Ireland which he had inspired, 
Villard argued that citizens have an obligation to take a 
hand in public affairs, even international ones, if the govern- 
ment should renege. "I have admitted all along," he said, 
"that our procedure was unconventional and bound to at- 
tract criticism because of that fact, but the outstanding 

Quest for a Liberal Party 129 

thing in the world today is that the governments are the 
enemies of their peoples and that if the governments will 
not take a hand in working out international problems, 
citizens must, or at least should make the attempt." 

Voluntary organizations then, in the view of many lib- 
erals, were devices for ensuring opposition and minority 
participation and for influencing public action. As a medium 
of informed and organized protest and influence, the po- 
litical party emerged as the most important. 

The two-party system in the United States has become 
an essential mechanism in minimizing the principle of 
separation of powers, thus helping to achieve political re- 
sponsibility. The two major parties have become the primary 
media through which political issues are defined and the 
choice between alternatives sharpened. In the 1920's how- 
ever, there seemed reason to believe that the two major 
parties had failed to fulfill these functions adequately. 

Writing in 19 19, Villard called attention to the problem 
of the similarity of the Republican and Democratic parties, 
charged that they offered no alternative to the people, 
warned that a movement to the left was on its way in the 
United States, and called for a new liberal party which 
would stake out the middle ground between conservatism 
and socialism: 

We must likewise not overlook the truth that our two 
great political parties are today the most conservative 
parties in the western world, and that they are even 
further to the right than the professed British Tories. 
There is, therefore, no political alternative for those 
whose desires are unexpressed than to go to the Socialists. 
If we undertake to organize wisely . . . we shall lend 

130 Villard, Liberal of the ip20^s 

all possible aid to a liberal party which shall take middle 
ground, else shall we see the cleft and the bitter feeling 
of the hour grow .... One thing is certain, the move- 
ment to the left in America is coming. 

In 1922 Villard was still protesting, this time to Senator 
William M. Calder (Republican, New York): "Now the 
only thing for you Republicans and Democrats to do is 
to fuse and leave us liberals who are through with both 
old parties and want to bring the United States up-to-date 
free to form the second party. We are now politically 
fifty years behind any modern country." In 1927 Villard 
saw so little fundamental difference in the two major parties 
that there seemed to be no issues between them. The most 
important question of the 1928 campaign, it seemed to him 
at the time, would be whether or not the country would 
have a "Cathohc or a Protestant, a Wet or a Dry." Through- 
out the presidential campaign of 1932, Villard ran a series 
of articles in the Natiofi titled "The Pot and the Kettle." 
Their content was for the most part a continuation of a 
theme now famiHar to his followers: "The pity of it all 
is that at bottom it is only the pot attacking the kettle, and 
the kettle attacking the pot, and that fundamentally, as I 
have said before, the American people are not going to 
gain by a change." Of the major-party candidates of the 
1932 presidential election, Villard maintained, "Our self- 
respect will not permit us to vote for either," and he urged 
his readers to cast their vote for Socialist Norman Thomas. 
In so doing, however, Villard had no intention of adopting 
the Socialist Party, as the party embodying his political 
ideals and his hopes for the future. When Villard cast his 
vote for Norman Thomas, preferring as he said to be 

Quest for a Liberal Party 131 

"dubbed a crank, an impractical idealist, than vote for 
F.D.R.," he did so for two reasons: first, because of the 
character of Norman Thomas who, Villard claimed, was 
"just about the only sincere and politically honest, and 
unselfish and outspoken political leader on the horizon"; and 
second, because he conceived of his vote as a protest, in 
sharp contrast to "throwing it away" on either Hoover 
or Roosevelt. Villard quoted Norman Thomas: "The only 
way to throw your vote away is to cast it for somebody 
you don't really want, and then get him." Villard argued 
that a large enough protest vote would jolt the Republican 
and Democratic parties out of their lethargy and at the 
same time would stimulate the liberal party movement 
which was very close to his heart: 

A vote for Norman Thomas means another vote of pro- 
test, another serving of notice that the voter is through 
with the old parties; that he wants something different, 
some promise that there will be a genuine attempt to re- 
build our social and political system in a way really to re- 
turn the government to the people , . . One of the fore- 
most practical Democratic politicians in the East has gone 
on record as saying that there will be at least three million 
votes for Norman Thomas in November. If that is the 
case, it will be a protest vote which will make both the 
old parties sit up and take notice, and encourage those 
who desire a third liberal party without the Socialist 

While Villard was insistent throughout the twenties in 
urging a liberal party, he was also persistent in main- 
taining that the Socialist Party was not the solution — this 

132 Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 

attitude despite his warm and close friendship with Norman 
Thomas. Indeed, the liberal party Villard had in mind was 
intended to be a compromise. Believing a swing to the left 
to be inevitable, he envisioned a party which would meet 
the challenge yet not go to the Socialist extreme. The war 
years had tended to crystallize Villard's political views, 
and as early as 19 19 he attempted to explain his position in 
a letter to author Hutchins Hapgood: 

Of course, there has been a great change in me. I do not 
see how anyone could have stood still during the last 
few years who thinks at all. One must have moved either 
to the left or to the right and I have gone to the left; 
not so far as you I fancy. I cannot embrace either the 
Socialist or the Communist doctrine .... Perhaps I am 
too well off or too happily situated in life — perhaps I 
haven't been close enough to the working people. 

Villard was opposed to the Socialist Party on a number of 
counts. He was, first, averse to any party which would be 
strictly a one-class party. He rejected it, secondly, on the 
purely pragmatic ground that it stood no possible chance 
of success in the United States because its name was so 

I am not interested in the Socialist Party as such, I have 
never joined it nor ever wanted to ... I consider So- 
cialism to be inevitable and that we are all more or less 
Socialists, even the conservatives. I am willing to grant 
that I found nearly everything in the last Socialist plat- 
form satisfactory to me, but I am nevertheless firmly of 
the belief that no party can get ahead in America under 
the name Socialist. 

Quest -for a Liberal Party 133 

Last, and most important, Villard simply could not ac- 
cept the entire Socialist platform. "I am, therefore," he 
continued, "only interested in starting a new Third Party 
which may have as a matter of course at least three quarters 
of the aims of the Socialist Party, but which will be free 
from the Marxian stamp. I believe that such a party is 
underway and I sincerely hope that the Socialist organiza- 
tion will become part of it." While willing to agree to 
public ownership of utilities and natural resources, Villard 
could not embrace the more comprehensive Socialist doc- 
trine of "social ownership of those things necessary for 
the common life." The difference between them, he ex- 
plained to Socialists, was one of degree; and inasmuch as 
the Socialists could not hope to accomplish anything con- 
crete under the Socialist Party label, Villard felt they could 
afford to modify their program and join in a movement for 
a new liberal party: 

So I am very strongly of the hope that we may all get 
together, now that the socialist party has changed its 
constitution, and form a new liberal party in which we 
shall be able to agree upon certain fundamentals in the 
warfare upon privilege. Our platforms are not so far 
apart. You came to ours in the La Follette campaign, and 
many of us, even those who were driven by Mr. Hoover 
to vote for Mr. Smith, found ourselves in practically 
complete sympathy with the Thomas platform. You 
have produced the best leader that there is today in the 
liberal movement. I cannot see why we should not unite. 

A persistent attempt was made throughout the twenties 
to form a liberal party such as that envisioned by Villard. 

134 Villard, Liberal of the i^zo^s 

In his efforts in that direction he was in the company of 
liberals such as John Dewey, Paul Douglas, Robert La 
Follette, Burton K. Wheeler, and others. As early as 191 8 
and before the end of the First World War, Villard's Nation 
had begun to agitate for a new third party: 

But if there might now arise, even while the war is 
going on, a united labor party of industrial workers, 
intellectual workers, and farmers, the vast body of Amer- 
ican sentiment which earnestly desires a better political 
and economic life than that which we are now living 
would unquestionably have found a programme and a 

The third-party movement throughout the period under 
study tended to assume the possibility Villard voiced above 
of a farmer-labor alliance which would become permanent. 
By 1922, however, there seemed to be some basis for these 
hopes. A National Labor Party had been born in November, 
1919, at Chicago. In 1920 this became the Farmer-Labor 
Party and had some success, particularly in Minnesota. 
In 1922, and again in a special election in 1923, the Farmer- 
Labor Party of Minnesota sent representatives to the United 
States Senate. This undoubtedly gave hope and comfort 
to those who envisioned a great new party built on a 
farmer-labor alliance. 

In addition, the first Conference for Progressive Political 
Action had taken place in Chicago in February of 1922. This 
brought together for the first time labor, farmers, and Pro- 
gressives. The Railroad Brotherhoods, Socialist and Farmer- 
Labor parties, the Nonpartisan League, the Committee of 
Forty-Eight, and various other organizations were repre- 

Quest for a Liberal Party 135 

sented. Those present at the conference agreed to campaign 
actively in the November, 1922. election on behalf of candi- 
dates who seemed to meet liberal standards and to convene 
again in December after the elections to assess the results. 
There is among the Villard papers a document which is 
interesting for the light it throws on Senator William E. 
Borah's interest in a third-party movement. Senator Borah 
apparently gave serious thought to participating in a new 
third party. On July 22, 1922, Villard wrote to Ralph Bea- 
con Strassburger, a wealthy Republican, in part as follows: 

I spent last evening with him [Borah] in Washington and 
found that he is convinced that the only hope is the 
formation of a new party. He is ready to cut loose as soon 
as the sinews of war can be organized and the plan laid 
out .... I may say confidentially to you that a strong 
group of Democrats has offered Borah the Democratic 
nomination if he would change his seat, but he feels what 
is true, that the two old parties are so dead that there is 
no hope of resurrection .... We are going to start 
something in New York this fall, and I am seriously con- 
sidering running for United States Senator, not with the 
slightest expectation, of course, that I could be elected, but 
in order to make a beginning. If we made any kind of a 
showing the thing might rapidly spread all over the coun- 
try. Borah thinks that if the means were provided we 
could organize the entire country in thirty days' time. 

Even though Villard may have been overstating Borah's en- 
thusiasm for a new party, it would seem that Borah was 
closer to lending aid to such a movement than is generally 
believed to be the case. Borah's biographer, Claudius John- 

136 Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 

son, passes rather lightly over Borah's connections with the 
third-party movement. He relates only that Borah "said the 
Republicans had to change their program or there would 
be a third party. During 1923 he had considerable corre- 
spondence with J. A. H. Hopkins, chairman of 'The Com- 
mittee of Forty -Eight functioning as the Liberal Party.' This 
Committee wanted to draft Borah for their presidential can- 
didate, but he gave them little encouragement." ^ Villard's 
letter to Strassburger, however, suggests that Villard and 
his Natiojj had had some indication from Borah personally 
that he might lend himself to the third-party movement 
when they continued to press for his leadership throughout 
1922, 1923, and even the early part of 1924. 

In a letter to Ramsay MacDonald, leader of Britain's 
Labour Party, dated August 4, 1922, Villard further revealed 
that he, Villard, was being urged to run for United States 
Senator on a Labor-Socialist-Farmer Alliance ticket. This 
was to be the "beginning" to which Villard had referred in 
his letter to Strassburger, and which, it was hoped, would 
spread throughout the country. 

Villard, however, was not confident that he really wanted 
to run for public office. On the one hand, he was inclined to 
"stick to his last"; on the other, he felt that if someone else 
could not be found to run who could maintain some sort of 
public standard he would feel duty-bound to do so. A 
further consideration was the effect his political ventures 
might have on the standing of the Nation, which, his- 
torically, was a nonpartisan organ. It was in this vein that 
he wrote to his friend William Allen White for advice. 
White replied: 

- Claudius Johnson, Borah of Idaho (New York: Longmans, 
Green & Co., Inc., 1936), pp. 299-300. 

Quest for a Liberal Party 137 

Now about your running for office. I feel that every 
editor of whatever station should take monastic vows 
against running for office, no matter how humble the can- 
didacy may be. If you run you sacrifice your influence be- 
cause some people, inevitably many people — perhaps dull 
people — but still people capable of influencing public 
sentiment, if only numerically, will think you want the 
job and once you lose your virtue, even by specious ap- 
pearance, you are discredited ever after. 

We editors are comparatively few in number, compared 
with the bulk of the population. "We are feeble yet we 
build among rocks." There are plenty of people in the 
world without crippling our editors. 

Villard had occasion, two years later, to remind editor 
White of his advice. In 1924 WilHam Allen White ran for 
Governor of the state of Kansas on an independent ticket. 
He was defeated. In conveying his regrets to White over 
the defeat, Villard commented on White's earlier advice: 
"I felt then that there are exceptions to all rules; that times 
may come when even an editor must enter the political lists 
if he would retain his self-respect and now you have proved 
me right." Although Villard did not wholeheartedly accept 
Mr. White's advice, neither did he run for the Senate in 
1922 or any other year. 

Senator Borah, too, offered Villard advice on his possible 
candidacy for public office in 1922: 

One thing about your personal matter that seems very 
clear to me and that is if you get into the race it should be 
under circumstances as to dispel the idea that you are run- 
ning as a candidate of a group or class. I feel that when 

138 Villard, Liberal of the ip20^s 

one is nominated on what is called a labor ticket, or a 
business man's ticket, or anything of that kind, it is more 
or less a challenge to everybody who is not a member of 
that particular group and it is a fearful handicap. That 
feature of it I think you ought to think over very care- 

It may well be that Borah wanted no large groups alienated 
from any movement which he might subsequently lead. 

At the same time that Villard was exchanging correspond- 
ence on the matter of his own political availability, his Na- 
tion called upon Senator Borah to lead a new third party. 
The Literary Digest described the Nation's call as that of 
inviting Borah to "rise and be acclaimed as Moses." ^ Borah, 
however, never committed himself publicly to the third- 
party movement. 

The enthusiasm for an effective third party mounted after 
the 1922 elections. Candidates endorsed by the Conference 
for Progressive Political Action had won in 6 states. Ninety- 
three "undesirable" members of the Sixty-seventh Congress 
had been defeated, and it was estimated that 140 members of 
the new House of Representatives were "progressive- 

Villard was delighted with the outcome of the election. 
To him it foreshadowed the future success of the liberal 
forces. He wrote Borah, "I wonder if you are as happy as 
we are over the election .... We are really elated . . . 
with the exception of one or two States, the results seem 
exactly what we should have wished. It's a magnificent be- 
ginning, isn't it?" 

A second Conference for Progressive Political Action met 


^ "Borah and a Third Party," Literary Digest, LXXIV (Au- 
gust 26, 1922), 14. 

Quest for a Liberal Party 139 

in Cleveland, Ohio, the following December. Just prior to 
its meeting, however, a dinner sponsored by the People's 
Legislative Service was held in Washington, D.C. This or- 
ganization had been inspired by Senator Robert La Follette 
in the spring of 192 1 and was launched with the help of 
Oswald Villard to provide members of Congress and the 
people with reliable information on matters pending in Con- 
gress. It was composed of a group of liberals both within 
and outside of Congress — men and women like George 
Norris, Robert La Follette, Burton K. Wheeler, Amos and 
GifTord Pinchot, Roger Baldwin, Herbert Croly, Jane 
Addams, and John Haynes Holmes. Oswald Garrison Vil- 
lard was a member of its Executive Committee. The first 
Conference for Progressive Political Action had actually 
grown out of a Washington dinner meeting of this organiza- 
tion. The Service's dinner on the eve of the second confer- 
ence of the "Progressives" drew the attention of the press 
and gave the liberals some much-needed publicity along with 
the prestige value of such names as Norris and La Follette. 
It helped to stimulate the interest of farm and labor groups 
in the formation of an independent political organization. 
The liberal elements of American society seemed now to 
have gathered enough strength to bid for the Presidency. 
When a third Conference for Progressive Political Action 
met in February of 1924, it adopted the following statement 
of purpose: 

The Conference for Progressive Political Action is an 
organization created for the purpose of securing the 
nomination and election of Presidents and Vice Presidents 
of the Untied [sic] States, United States Senators, Repre- 
sentatives to Congress, members of State Legislatures and 
other state and local public officers who are pledged to 

140 Villard, Liberal of the 1^26*3 

the interests of the producing classes and to the principles 
of genuine democracy in agriculture, industry and gov- 

To further its purpose, the Conference for Progressive 
Political Action decided to hold a national convention in 
1924, which would follow, chronologically, that of the 
Democrats and the Republicans, to decide which political 
candidates it would support. Such a convention was called 
for what seemed to the leaders a most appropriate date — 
July 4, 1924. Finding neither Calvin Coolidge, the Repub- 
lican nominee, nor John W. Davis, the Democratic candi- 
date, acceptable, the National Committee of the conference 
announced on the eve of the convention that it had asked 
Robert M. La Follette to run as its candidate for the Presi- 
dency. Villard had been actively seeking La Follette's candi- 
dacy for at least five months. On February i, 1924, he had 
written to La Follette somewhat flamboyantly: 

I do not know how you can be in any doubt whatever 
as to your duty in view of what is coming out in the reve- 
lations of the Teapot Dome. If you do not give us a 
chance, by running on a third ticket, to vote for you, 
hundreds and hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of 
us American citizens will be denied the opportunity to 
express ourselves at the polls. We are sick and tired of 
voting for Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dee. 

La Follette accepted the invitation and in due course was 
endorsed by the conference to run for the Presidency as an 
Independent, postponing until after the election the question 

* Quoted in Kenneth MacKay, The Progressive Move?nejJt of 
1924 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1947), p. 76. 

Quest for a Liberal Party 141 

of establishing an actual third party. The selection of the 
vice-presidential candidate was also postponed. There is 
some evidence that Villard was considered for the post. The 
issue was resolved a few days later, however, when Senator 
Burton K. Wheeler of Montana bolted the Democratic 
Party on the basis that he could not "support any candidate 
representing the House of Morgan." He was immediately 
invited to become La Follette's running mate. 

Oswald Garrison Villard publicly proclaimed his approval 
of these events. In the Nation, he described the convention 
of the Conference for Progressive Political Action as an 
"honest" one. The esteem with which Villard held that con- 
vention body is implicit in his remark that La Follette, in re- 
ceiving its nomination, had "received the highest compli- 
ment which could be paid short of the presidency itself." 
Villard elaborated: 

The honor was a far greater one than had it come from 
the Republican or Democratic Party. Here were no polit- 
ical bosses, no ward heelers, no Harry Daughertys, no 
Tom Taggerts, and no Henry Cabot Lodges — just twelve 
hundred plain people come together under labor-union 
auspices to take their stand .... 

Sincerity, earnestness, honesty — these were the qualities 
which ruled . . . here was the search for truth which 
makes man free; here was a refusal to remain longer in 
bondage to a dead and festering past; here was the ambi- 
tion to lead and to find new ways to serve. 

Villard became an energetic and loyal campaigner for 
La Follette in 1924. In a letter to La Follette on July 11 
of that year, he pledged his personal support. "Please do not 

142 Villard, Liberal of the 1^20's 

forget," he Y^rote, "that I am ready to devote my time from 
the 15th of September until election day to your cause, with- 
out compensation, and insofar as possible I shall defray my 
own expenses in case you call upon me for any speaking." 
Just three days after Senator Wheeler agreed to be La 
Follette's running mate, the Neiv York Times reported that 
Villard was chairman of a committee of one hundred liberal 
professional and business men and women combined in sup- 
port of La Follette. The committee was composed of liberals 
such as Norman Hapgood, John Haynes Holmes, Arthur 
Garfield Hays, Robert Morss Lovett, Amos Pinchot, and 
Norman Thomas. They wired La Follette an expression of 
their gratitude to him for his willingness to assume leader- 
ship and pledged their votes and efforts in aid of his candi- 
dacy. On July 28 Villard wrote to La Follette pledging the 
financial support of the Nation. "We of the Nation," he in- 
formed La Follette, "have decided to open our own fund 
for your candidacy and appeal to our readers for gifts. The 
office force on the spot has contributed $250." 

A month later, on August 23 and 24, the National Execu- 
tive Committee of the La Follette-Wheeler Campaign met 
in a planning session. Villard was present and was appointed 
a committee of one to arrange a banquet to be held on Sep- 
tember 15 at Madison Square Garden. He was also named 
to a committee charged with securing a financial director 
for the campaign. Subsequently, he became Assistant Na- 
tional Treasurer of the so-called "Progressives." He toured 
New York State with Burton K. Wheeler, acting — as he de- 
scribes it — "as a curtain-raiser" for the vice-presidential can- 
didate. He then went on to tour the United States on behalf 
of La Follette and Wheeler. 

Villard was not, however, completely happy with the 

Quest for a Liberal Party 143 

issues which La Follette chose to stress in his campaign. 
While La Follette seemed preoccupied with domestic issues, 
Villard kept pressing him to deal with foreign affairs and to 
speak out against war. He urged La Follette repeatedly to 
give more attention to Negro votes as a source of strength 
— to speak out, for example, on the Haiti and Santo Domingo 
issues. In short. La Follette's program, as Villard described 
it some years later, was never "thorough-going" enough: 

He was against privilege but he failed to see that the 
tariff is the greatest bulwark and creator of privilege; he 
opposed corruption but he voted regularly for the tariff 
system which for generations gave rise to more political 
corruption than anything else. He was opposed to war 
but he was not a pacifist — he could not see that he who 
compromises with this evil and refuses to break with it 
at all times, under all conditions, merely helps to continue 
it, helps it more than does the outright advocate of war. 
He believed in co-operation yet lacked the vision to see 
what enormous benefits the whole country would derive 
if it were made of paramount importance. 

At the time of the 1924 campaign, however, Villard was 
convinced that the campaign marked the resurgence of 
American liberalism. It had, he wrote, "revived hope, re- 
inspired faith that poHtical progress is not dead, that leaders 
can be found to assail the massed forces of wealth and 
privilege even as at different times and in different ways 
they have been challenged by Theodore Roosevelt and 
Woodrow Wilson." 

The results of the 1924 campaign are well known and 
need no elaboration here. Suffice it to emphasize that when 

144 Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 

4,822,319 votes were cast for La Follette that November 4, 
more votes were cast for a minor-party organization than in 
any other election in American history. The "Progressives" 
carried only Wisconsin, but they relegated the Democrats 
to third place in eleven other states (all west of the Missis- 
sippi). Significant also is the fact that this election marked 
the first formal alliance in the United States of organized 
labor with farmers and Socialists, 

Villard was, of course, bitterly disappointed in the out- 
come of the election. He attributed the failure of the liberal 
forces to a variety of causes. Villard charged first that man- 
agement of the campaign was inefficient: Gilbert Roe, direc- 
tor of the New York headquarters, "was not a good admin- 
istrator and did not know people in New York"; La Follette 
had a tendency "to put trusted men in charge without the 
slightest reference to their effectiveness"; and Villard him- 
self was scheduled to speak in small towns where he was 
not known instead of in large cities where he had standing 
as a liberal leader. 

Second, Villard cited organizational weaknesses and finan- 
cial difficulties as obstacles to a successful campaign. He 
charged that "in many places we found the merest skeletons 
of what a fighting political force should be, and in some 
States we had no organization whatever and could not get 
on the ballot." ^ He expanded upon this latter point and 
campaign finances in a letter to Britain's Prime Minister, 
Ramsay MacDonald: 

... In one State we were entirely barred, and in Cali- 
fornia we could only be represented through the Socialist 
ticket which kept several hundred thousand people from 
^ Villard, Fighting Years, p. 503. 

Quest -for a Liberal Party 145 

voting for us ... . We only succeeded in raising about 
$230,000, and being without organization and with pre- 
cious few leaders we had to struggle against incredible 
odds. We only had seventeen national speakers in the field 
until October, of whom I was one, and some of us had 
even to pay our own expenses. Under the circumstances 
victory was unterrly [sic\ impossible. 

Third, Villard blamed the ambivalence of labor for the 
defeat. He relates in his Fighting Years that the American 
Federation of Labor had promised its support and $3,000,000 
of its funds. Actually, the total receipts from all sources 
amounted to only $221,837. The New York Labor Coun- 
cil, which had earlier endorsed La Follette, withdrew its 
support in the last days of the campaign. Villard cited the 
attitude of labor as one of the problems involved both in 
the campaign and in attempting to build a permanent Pro- 
gressive organization after the election: 

What we are trying to do now is to organize permanently. 
One of our chief difficulties is the benightedness of the 
labor unions. Gompers has gone back to his old position 
of antagonism to a labor party, and while he is not likely 
to last much longer most of his entourage is of the same 
point of view. Their following was not always sincere in 
its support of us, and many of the New York unions de- 
liberately sold us out in the last week of the campaign, 
presumably for cash. 

Professor John Hicks has reported of the third-party 
movement of the twenties that with the defeat of La Follette 
"all plans to develop a permanent organization were aban- 

146 Villard, Liberal of the ip20^s 

doned." ^ Strictly speaking, this is not true. There were 
among the liberal forces some who never completely re- 
linquished the idea of a permanent third-party organization. 
Villard for one continued to urge such a party and worked 
toward that end right up to the presidential election of 

The delegates to the Cleveland meetings of the Conference 
for Progressive Political Action had agreed that there should 
be a call to a special convention to be held after the Novem- 
ber elections of 1924 to consider the question of forming a 
permanent third party around the La Follette supporters. 
By the time the convention met late in February of 1925, 
however, the Railroad Brotherhoods and the American 
Federation of Labor had already withdrawn their support 
of the activities of the Conference for Progressive Political 
Action and had indicated that in their opinion a third-party 
attempt would be futile. The conference, thus weakened, 
was adjourned almost as soon as it was called to order, with 
the provision that those who remained interested in a third- 
party movement should meet together that night. Those 
delegates who remained for the evening session declared 
themselves a "convention of delegates to a new independent 
political party." ''' An executive committee was named and a 
national headquarters established. The latter became known 
as the National Progressive Headquarters of the New Polit- 
ical Party. Oswald Garrison Villard was one of its leaders 
along with Dr. Mercer Green Johnston of Baltimore, a mem- 
ber of the Committee of Forty-Eight, Arthur Garfield Hays, 

^ John Hicks, "The Third Party Tradition in American PoH- 
tics," Mississippi Valley Historical Review, XX (June, 1933), 

'' MacKay, op. cit., p. 236. 

Quest for a Liberal Party 147 

and Peter Witt. Not enough interest was shown by liberal 
groups throughout the country even to call a convention in 
1926. Villard and Peter Witt had composed a "Declaration 
of Progressive Faith" for the national committee which was 
destined never to be read before a party convention. The 
national committee continued to meet from time to time, 
however, and attempts were made to organize liberals in 
various areas throughout the country. Villard, for example, 
was quite active throughout 1925 and 1926 in organizing a 
Progressive Party in New York State. On June 14, 1925, he 
gave the opening address at the State Convention of the New 
York Progressive Party in which he stated the objectives of 
the convention. "We are met together," he said, "not to plan 
another campaign, not to try to intrigue now as to when we 
shall next go to the polls with a party . . . But to renew our 
faith, to take counsel with one another as to how we shall 
proceed when the political tide begins to turn." ^ The con- 
vention was called, he continued, so that the party could 
keep faith with the 5,000,000 voters who cast ballots for 
"Progressive" candidates in 1924. 

On January 14, 1926, Villard wrote to Gilson Gardner, 
Scripps-McRae correspondent in Washington, D.C., request- 
ing his aid in gathering together a group of liberal Congress- 
men for a dinner of the New York Progressives. In explain- 
ing his purpose, Villard intimated the difficulty of holding 
the liberals together: 

Our group is quite conscious of the fact that if we do not 
do something to keep the movement alive it will disinte- 
grate very rapidly. On the other hand the group feels 
restless because it has not been in touch with the men who 
^New York Times, June 14, 1925, p. 24, col. 4. 

148 Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 

led us in the last campaign, and it feels that a visit of this 
kind at Washington would perhaps stimulate these Pro- 
gressives by letting them know that there is a group of 
people in New York who are watching them and ready to 
support them where they can. 

In October of 1927, Villard addressed the Progressive 
Club of Hampshire County, Massachusetts. Into his address 
was injected something new for Villard. He indicated that 
he was ready to settle for something less than a new third 

Let me say here that my appeal is for an opposition and 
that I am not concerning myself at this hour with whether 
that should come from a splitting up of the two old 
parties with the subsequent coalescing of similar elements 
in them both, or in some other way. I beheve that it would 
be best to achieve this result by the rise of a third party 
, . . But the need of a check upon the dominant party 
in Washington and the dominant economic forces is so 
great that I am prepared to welcome it if it could come 
about by a realignment and a re-birth of one of the exist- 
ing parties. It is principles with which Progressives every- 
where ought to be primarily concerned and not with 
mediums; fortunately the battle for these principles can be 
carried on in and out of season, whether there is or is not 
a party or even a Congressional group committed to them 
as long as there are pens to write, newspapers to print, 
and tongues to speak. 

This speech foreshadowed the end of the National Pro- 
gressive Headquarters of the New PoHtical Party. A month 


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Rroini Brother 

Oswald Garrison Villard addressing Western Reserve Universit\' 
students in a demonstration against war (1935). 

Oswald Garrison \'illard (standing) and Xornian Thomas 

(seated, far right) addressing an anti-Hague machine rally at 

Princeton University in 1938. Students are John VanEss, Jr. 

(seated, left) and J. Harlan Cleveland (seated, right). 

Quest for a Liberal Party 149 

later, on November 3, 1927, the motion to adjourn sine die 
was carried. It also foreshadowed a new emphasis in the ac- 
tivities of the "Progressives." They were subsequently to 
concentrate on maintaining and enlarging the liberal group 
within Congress and on a realignment of the old parties. To 
this latter end, Paul Douglas, John Dewey, and^ others were 
instrumental in organizing in 1929 the League for Inde- 
pendent Political Action. This organization was to act as a 
kind of clearing house for liberal sentiment and ideas, con- 
tacting and cooperating with liberals throughout the coun- 
try and cultivating a sense of solidarity. 

Lack of organization has long been regarded as the chief 
weakness of liberalism. Woodrow Wilson had it in mind 
when he explained to Franklin D. Roosevelt: 

Roosevelt, we progressives never beat the conservatives 
because they, wanting to disturb nothing, and maintaining 
a purely defensive position, have the cohesiveness and re- 
sistance of a closed fist; but we, being determined to make 
progress and each knowing best how it should be done and 
being therefore utterly unable, any of us, to support any 
others of us, have about as much striking power as you'd 
expect from the fingers of an open hand, each pointing 
in a slightly different direction.^ 

By 1929 the liberals, it would seem, had finally recognized 
that hastily improvised campaigns in presidential years were 
not conducive to the establishment of permanent political 
parties. They had begun to see that their best hope for a 

^ Related by Rexford Tugwell in "The New Deal: The Pro- 
gressive Tradition," Western Political Quarterly, III (Septem- 
ber, 1950), 395-96. 

150 Villard, Liberal of the i^zo^s 

permanent third party was to organize from the grass roots 
upward. John Dewey expressed the realization: 

The hope of the future resides . . . first and foremost in 
a campaign of steady and continuous organization which 
shall effect contact and unity among the now scattered 
and largely inarticulate liberal persons and groups in our 
country. Secondly, as in part a means for this organized 
acquaintance and contact and in still greater part as a 
product of it, the development of a unifying body of prin- 
ciples and policies adapted to present conditions, one 
which will bring that sense of reality into present politics 
which is now absent.^*' 

That Villard was sympathetic to this approach and ac- 
quiesced in it is apparent from an address he gave before the 
Rollins College Institute of Statesmanship in March of 1929. 
Positing that a truly liberal party was possible in the United 
States, he attempted an analysis of the problems involved and 
argued that the first step was to organize for a far-flung 
liberal sentiment in the United States: 

Historically, in American life new parties arise either 
around some striking, inspiring personality, or some com- 
pelling economic issue, or they have been born out of a 
profound sectional distress. The difficulty of the situation 
today is that since the death of the senior Robert M. La 
Follette, there is no outstanding leader about whom an 
organization can be built, and there is no single compelling 
economic issue . . . The difficulty which confronts liber- 

10 John Dewey, "What Do Liberals Want?" Outlook, CLIII 
(October 16, 1929), 261. 

Quest -for a Liberal Party 151 

als and radicals today is the extraordinary multiplicity of 
issues and reforms which they would champion . . . But 
what can be done now without a leader, or a party name, 
or funds, or a single paramout issue? I answer that the way 
to begin is to begin; the way to organize is to organize; 
that the way to fight is to fight, and to fight wherever the 
opportunity offers, especially locally. There are enough 
progressives powerfully to affect Congress, at least to send 
some representatives to it, if they could only come to- 
gether. Unfortunately, they are often unaware of an- 
other's existence, partly because of the reign of reaction 
since the war, partly because there has been no common 
ground of association; partly for lack of a personality to 
rally about. 

Villard was suggesting the identical line of attack which 
the League for Independent Political Action had adopted. 
May 22, 193 1 found him addressing that organization on the 
occasion of the second anniversary of its founding. He 
criticized the Democrats for the inadequacy of their opposi- 
tion and called for a "new deal" in precisely those terms: 

In the face of all this it is more than ever the duty of every 
far-sighted American to demand a new deal, to make it 
plain to all to whom he can appeal that there is not an iota 
of difference between the party of power and the party 
of opposition . . . What we need above all else today is 
a party which shall be at least as radical as the Bull Moose 
of 191 2, and the La Follette crusade of 1924. 

By September of 193 1, however, Villard again expressed 
little hope of reform through the major parties and was 

152 Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 

sounding out Harold Ickes, then a Chicago attorney who 
had long been active in the Progressive movement, on 
whether or not Ickes would be interested in a new-party 
movement which was in its embryo and which had evolved 
from the activities of the League for Independent Political 

I write to inquire whether you would be interested in the 
Third Party movement started here under the leadership 
of John Dewey, with Paul Douglas as one of the Vice- 
Chairmen, and myself as Treasurer. The only thing that 
limits us is the question of money, and under existing con- 
ditions with everybody feeling the pinch it is terribly 
hard to get funds. At the same time, the interest in our 
cause is tremendous . . . we have something like 5,000 
members, and we are planning a preliminary meeting this 
fall and then another more public and important meeting 
next winter. 

June of 1932 found Villard still urging a new party. The 
Democrats had nominated Franklin Delano Roosevelt as 
their presidential candidate, and Villard considered Roose- 
velt something less than a liberal: 

To put into the Presidency at this hour another weak man 
in the place of Herbert Hoover would be all the more 
disastrous because of the mistaken idea that Franklin D. 
Roosevelt is really a liberal .... 

But, we shall be asked again, whom would you have the 
Democrats nominate? This is not our function. We are 
not supporters of the Democratic Party and we have long- 
since told our readers that we shall not support a candidate 

Quest -for a Liberal Party 153 

of either of the old parties. We stand with President 
Butler in his belief that the hour calls for a new party and 
that nothing less will serve, but unlike President Butler 
we are ready to go through with the proposal. We wish 
the beginning made here and now. 

As the campaign progressed, the ranks of the liberals di- 
vided. Men like George Norris, Robert M. La Follette, Jr., 
Burton K. Wheeler, and Frank Walsh of New York sup- 
ported Roosevelt. On the other hand, such names as Morris 
Ernst, Morris Cohen, Elmer Davis, Paul Douglas, and John 
Dewey were found joined with that of Villard in a vote of 
protest for Norman Thomas. The latter did not foresee 
Roosevelt's New Deal and the subsequent realignment of 
American politics into the liberal and conservative group- 
ings that Villard in particular had for so long advocated. 

The third-party movement of the 1920's may be inter- 
preted as an attempt to unify the scattered fronts of liberal- 
ism into a single, continuing force — a force dedicated to 
criticism of the status quo in a period of rapidly changing 
conditions of a technological society. Oswald Garrison Vil- 
lard was the type of man needed by every such movement 
if it is to be successful. An indefatigable committeeman, 
willing and able to lavish time and energy behind the scenes, 
Villard was inherently optimistic and almost dogmatic in his 
confidence that the American people would recognize, and 
were ready and willing to accept, able and responsible 


Repudiation of a ''Business' Society 

The period of the twenties was one in which liberals ap- 
praised capitalist democracy with the aim not of disturbing 
the effectiveness of capitalism but of reducing the incidence 
of corruption in governmental relations with business and of 
emphasizing the fact that the capitalistic system was not a 
self-operating machine which would run effectively and sat- 
isfactorily with little or no governmental supervision. 

The decade was marked by an increasingly insistent de- 
mand by liberals for governmental action in the economic 
sphere. This was not a new phenomenon to America. It was 
characteristic of the agrarian movements of the late iSoo's; it 
was an integral part of the Progressive movement and the 
New Freedom; it was to culminate eventually in the New 
Deal. Its roots were in the abuses resulting from the con- 
tinued rise and concentration of big business. This demand 
reflected a growing recognition of the economic bases of 
politics, of the role of wealth and of pressure groups in the 
political process. It reflected also the liberals' conviction that 
opposition to unlimited power should apply to the economic 
as well as to the political arena. 

Pressure for economic intervention by government in the 
twenties was inextricably interwoven with the attempts by 
liberals to obtain more responsive political institutions. Agi- 


Repudiatiojj of a ''^Business'''' Society 155 

tation for a constitutional amendment giving Congress a 
vote over Supreme Court decisions, for example, was a pro- 
test against use of judicial review "to exalt property rights 
at the expense of human rights." ^ By the same token, the 
concerted movement for a third party was a protest against 
the conservatism of both major parties because of their domi- 
nation by economic interests; in Villard's words, the task of 
building a third party was vital "unless we are to be perma- 
nently enchained by those whom Wilson called the real mas- 
ters of America, its Big Business men." Moreover, the spe- 
cific connection between political corruption and economic 
power became more apparent after the turn of the century, 
making them related problems and rendering their solution 
a simultaneous one. To Villard and his liberal friends, it 
seemed as though the special interests were firmly en- 
trenched in Washington. "It is now," he wrote in 1927, "a 
government by, for, and of Big Business." And the liberals 
were insistent that that government be transformed to one 
devoted to the general interest. 

The Republican program of the twenties has often been 
referred to as a "return to laissez faire." It has also been 
described as a modified form of mercantilism. Basis for both 
views is found in statements of the leaders of the Republican 
Party of the period. Said President Harding, for example, 
"We want a period in America with less government in 
Business and more Business in government." Maintained 
Coolidge, "The business of America is business"; and in 
Hoover's words, "Hamilton's view well comprehended the 
necessities of Federal Government activity in support of 
commerce and industry." Thus there was an ambivalence to 

^ Louis Hacker, American Froblems of Today (New York: 
F. S. Crofts and Co., 1938), p. 91. 

156 Villard, Liberal of the i^zd's 

the Republican acceptance of laissez faire. The "business 
service" concept of the function of government as put forth 
by Presidents Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover is more akin 
to mercantilism. Yet the very same advocates of government 
aid to business were opposed to most forms of government 
regulation and control. In this respect, they were expound- 
ing more nearly a laissez faire doctrine. 

Thus American liberals in the twenties fought their "busi- 
ness civilization" on two fronts. First, they opposed the gov- 
ernment's benevolence to business, mainly as it took the form 
of tariffs and other subsidies. Second, they advocated greater 
control of business and natural resources by government. 

As tliis chapter develops, it should become apparent that 
liberal opposition to established economic interests in the 
twenties was made in the name of individualism. It is the 
theory of individualism which underlies the liberal insistence 
on dissolution of monopolies and holding companies. The 
hope was for restoration of fair competition and its accom- 
panying opportunities. Where government regulation, 
ownership, and control were advocated, it was in the interest 
of individual dignity, freedom, and opportunity. Indeed, the 
immediate problem was that of method — of how to realize 
the individualistic, humanitarian, and libertarian tenets of 
the liberal faith in a world dominated by big business which, 
seemingly, was frustrating liberal aspirations. 

The concentration of private economic wealth and power, 
for example, left little room for the equal opportunity of 
individuals to realize their potential. Villard, with reference 
to Herbert Hoover's philosophy of rugged individuahsm, 
described the situation as follows: 

Again and again he has made it plain that what he calls 
the "American system" precisely fulfils his dreams, his 

Repudiation of a ''''Business''' Society 157 

aspirations. He admits that there are some flaws, but he 
dwells upon the superiority of our democracy to the 
British, German, or French democracy because of the 
equality of opportunity which he says the United States 
offers. But that equality of opportunity means for him 
the right of some men to rise to wealtH^and power and 
privilege upon the backs of most of their fellow-citizens. 
He snorts at the idea that there may be a better system, a 
better way of life for Americans. 

To the American liberal, opportunity for the fullest and 
freest development was to be accorded all men, humble and 
obscure as well as great and powerful. Thus the doctrine of 
individual rights underwent an extension to include the right 
to a certain amount of economic security. Man needed more 
than a mere subsistence living to enable him to do the things 
he really wanted to do, to achieve a meaningful measure of 
self-realization. He needed liberation from the material in- 
security which denied him the opportunity to participate 
in the vast cultural resources at hand. 

Turning to the more strictly humanitarian aspect, the 
American liberal, as characterized in the twenties by such 
men as Oswald Garrison Villard and John Dewey, could not 
tolerate a smug indifference to social evils. Theirs was a 
keen sense of social responsibility or the "social justice" of 
the earlier Progressive movement. American liberalism, as 
Dewey said, was "identified largely with the idea of the use 
of governmental agencies to remedy evils from which the 
less-fortunate classes suffer." ^ Its ultimate objective was to 
alleviate social inequities and to eliminate economic abuses. 

It was obvious to the liberals of the 1920's that the Amer- 

2 John Dewey, "A Liberal Speaks Out for Liberalism," New 
York Times Magazine, Feb. 23, 1936, p. 3. 

158 Villard, Liberal of the i^20^s 

ican free enterprise system had not for some decades realized 
the human satisfactions originally expected of it. Depressions, 
monopolistic abuses, poverty in the midst of plenty — all 
pointed to the failure of the economic system to meet the 
needs of modern industrial, economic, and social conditions. 

It would seem inevitable that the proper relationship be- 
tween government and business, between politics and eco- 
nomics, would become the most controversial, crucial, and 
central question in American political thought of the twenti- 
eth century. It was natural that the role of government 
should be re-examined in the light of the realization that eco- 
nomic interests had, either by usurpation or by default of 
other segments of society, assumed the function of deter- 
mining the major objectives of society and the cultural 
destinies of mankind. 

It was only natural, too, for the pragmatic liberal to con- 
clude that free enterprise had failed and therefore had to be 
modified and that this task should be turned over to a polit- 
ical authority controllable by the people. The liberal is on 
the side of positive government rather than laissez faire. 
Knowing that the exercise of power is unavoidable in mod- 
ern, industrial society, the basic problem of the liberal in- 
volves the question of control of that power. Who should 
wield it? And in whose behalf? The American liberal de- 
cided the question in favor of collective action through the 
medium of a positive state — a state devoted to the wise use of 
political power to promote the general welfare. The Amer- 
ican liberal accepted the thesis that it was a proper function 
of the state to safeguard a considerable measure of social and 
economic security for ordinary men. As economic stability 
and security became a warranted objective of public policy, 
some degree of governmental control and regulation was 
necessarily implied. 

Repudiation of a "Business'^ Society 159 

The precise degree of governmental control and regula- 
tion advocated by American liberals, however, has been 
somewhat nebulous. To begin with, the American liberal 
has never attempted to change fundamentally the economic 
system. Rather than replacing that system, he has been con- 
cerned with correcting it, with making it work. In seeking, 
for example, to restore free competition through trust regu- 
lation, he has in effect sought to protect the free enterprise 
system. In his preoccupation with the economic welfare of 
the individual, he has been concerned to see that capitalism 
should fulfill the promise that it can best provide the fullest 
and freest benefits to society. The liberal has had no blind 
devotion to either public or private ownership. He has been 
pragmatically inclined rather to respect private ownership 
until experience indicates that abuses or inadequacies require 
public responsibility in a given case. 

The American liberal has suffered the usual vulnerability 
of the middle ground position. He has been attacked by the 
right because he insisted on change, by the left because he 
would not go far enough. Louis Hartz describes the liberal 
mind as "like that of a child in adolescence, torn between old 
taboos and new reality." ^ Max Lerner, who was once asso- 
ciated with Oswald Villard on the Nation and broke with 
him over the question of liberal program, criticized Villard 
by characterizing his position as that of pacifist liberalism 
which "was a woefully inadequate weapon with which to 
confront a ruthless and planless corporate capitalism." ^ 

But liberals like Oswald Garrison Villard could not be ex- 
pected to advocate drastic changes in the prevailing eco- 
nomic system. Villard himself was a man of material means 

" Hartz, op. cit., p. 237. 

^ Max Lerner, Ideas Are Weapons (New York: The Viking 
Press, Inc., 1939), p. 180. 

i6o Villard, Liberal of the i^20^s 

gained through the graces of a capitalistic system. While 
recognizing the deficiencies of that system, he nevertheless 
retained a fundamental respect for it. And he observed how 
that system was being modified in other parts of the world. 
Villard argued repeatedly that it was his intent to ward off 
radicalism in the United States by utilizing political power 
to meet the more immediate economic and social problems 
of the day: ^ 

One thing is certain, the movement to the left in America 
is coming. No one can study conditions abroad and rest 
assured that America can remain apart from the imponder- 
able world currents. . . . Shall we guide it and direct it 
into wise channels by ascertaining and removing the causes 
of social and economic discontent, or shall we combat it 
by force and repression and lynching — and thereby com- 
pel it to nihilism and to what people consider bolshevism? 

Louis Hartz gives credit to the liberals for their part in mak- 
ing socialism in America impossible: "Actually, though the 
whole of the national liberal community sent the Marxists 
into the wilderness, the final step in the process which did 
so was the nature of American Liberal Reform." ^ 

What was the nature of the liberal reform? What were 
the measures which Villard and others urged to meet social 
needs and yet obviate radicalism? What, in effect, consti- 
tuted the liberal rejection of a "business civilization" and 
repudiation of laissez faire in the twenties? Tariffs, sub- 
sidies, railroads, public power, utilities, natural resources, 
trusts, and depression measures in the late twenties and 
early thirties — all figured largely in giving definition and 

'"'Hartz, op. cit., p. 233. 

Repudiation of a ^'Business" Society i6i 

concrete expression to the liberal concept of the economic 
role of government. 

One of the hardest fought battles of the Progressive move- 
ment of 1908 to 191 2 was that over the Payne- Aldrich 
Tariff Act of 1909. The Republican Party had pledged 
itself, in the 1908 presidential campaign, to a revision of 
the tariff, and one of President William Howard Taft's 
first actions on entering the White House was to call Con- 
gress into special session for this purpose. The resulting 
legislation embraced revision, but a revision upward, much 
to the disgust and disappointment of liberal Senators such 
as La Follette of Wisconsin, Borah of Idaho, and Beveridge 
of Indiana, who had fought it bitterly. In spite of their op- 
position, the bill was a series of concessions to the demands 
of numerous special interests. 

When Woodrow Wilson assumed the Presidency, he, 
too, called a special session of Congress following his in- 
auguration to deal with tariff reductions. He recognized 
that tariffs were a form of privilege and a means of har- 
boring economic inefKciency: "We must abolish every- 
thing that bears even the semblance of privilege or of any 
kind of artificial advantage, and put our businessmen and 
producers under the stimulation of a constant necessity to 
be efficient, economical, and enterprising, masters of com- 
petitive supremacy, better workers and merchants than any 
in the world .... It is best, indeed it is necessary, to begin 
with the tariff." ^ 

The response to Wilson's plea was the Underwood 
Tariff Act of 191 3, a strictly Democratic measure, which 

^ Shaw, op. cit., I, 8-9. 

1 62 Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 

embraced moderate protection based on the principle of a 
revenue tariff without injury to business. The Republican 
principle of equalizing production costs at home with those 
abroad was abandoned. 

With Republicans back in control of government in the 
twenties, it seemed only natural that businessmen should 
demand and legislators grant an immediate revision of the 
Democratic tariff. Indeed, the first act of Congress passed 
under the Harding administration was the Emergency Tariff 
Act of May 27, 192 1. This legislation was succeeded by the 
Fordney-McCumber Act of 1922 and, in Herbert Hoover's 
administration, the Smoot-Hawley Act of 1930. Neither 
the Fordney-McCumber nor the Smoot-Hawley acts were 
content to return tariffs to the level of the Payne-Aldrich 
Act of 1909. Instead, these acts imposed higher tariffs than 
ever before established in United States history — a circum- 
stance which was anathema to Oswald Garrison Villard. 
Next in order after the sedition and conscriptive legislation 
of World War I, he considered the Fordney-McCumber 
Act the "wickedest piece of legislation ever put through 

Villard, it will be remembered, assumed full editorial con- 
trol of the Nation in January of 19 18. In its very first edition 
of that year, Villard put forth what he called "some re- 
construction proposals." One of them called for the es- 
tablishment of free trade and the abolition of all protective 
tariffs. "This involves," said Villard, "freedom of the 
seas and of trade to all peoples of the earth without fear 
or favor or special or preferential rights of any kind." 
Fourteen years later he was still advocating free trade. 
He had found little in the tariff outlook of Presidents 
Harding, Coolidge, or Hoover in which to take comfort. 

Repudiation of a ''''Business'''' Society 163 

Actually, Villard fought the protective tariff all his life 
and always with a considerable amount of moral indignation, 
passion, and journalistic fervor. 

To Oswald Garrison Villard the tariff was not only eco- 
nomically unsound and politically undemocratic, but it 
was "wicked"; it was "robbery"; it was "extortion." Villard 
was uncompromising. Their attitude toward the tariff 
brought condemnation and public criticism by Villard to 
Republicans and Democrats, farmers and laborers alike 
during this period. Of the Republican Party, he said that 
it was the "party of protection and privilege and wealth"; 
the Democrats, "forgetting their old slogan of victory, 'a 
tariff for revenue only,' " were helping to erect additional 
tariffs; labor had adopted a position of "stupidity" on the 
tariff; "nor is the situation in the least bit changed," he said, 
"if other groups, like the farmers, also seek and obtain 
tariff favors." Villard opposed tariffs on a number of counts. 

First, free trade was a necessary prerequisite to peace. 
Tariffs contributed to war among nations by fostering 
rivalry, by encouraging "the great illusion" that colonies 
and spheres of influence were worth fighting for. Tariffs 
became a manifestation of nationalism gone wild, of im- 
perialism, and of trade following the flag. Tearing down 
the tariff wall would clear the atmosphere of war and 
would allow fair and just competition among nations. 

Second, establishment of free trade would in turn con- 
tribute to the -world's postwar financial recuperation. It 
would allow the smaller nations a fairer chance to rebuild 
their economies. Tariff reduction, and free trade generally, 
would, by rendering war less likely, make armaments and 
the maintenance of a military force unnecessary, for "behind 
the military men," wrote Villard, "and counting upon their 

164 Villard, Liberal of the ip20^s 

aid and protection in overseas ventures, stand those who 
seek special privileges abroad or desire trading or manu- 
facturing privileges at home." If armaments and the main- 
tenance of a military force were rendered unnecessary, it 
would, according to Villard, "remove the heaviest financial 
burden from every nation, make possible the steady re- 
duction of the hideous debts of the war and the carrying 
of the enormous pension payments which will result from 
the struggle, and should make impossible the excuse that 
we must tax imports in order to get money to carry on 
the government." 

Third, tariffs cause waste and extravagance in business 
inasmuch as they help maintain numerous incompetent and 
unnecessary industries which would otherwise be forced 
out. They actually encourage inefficiency. What Americans 
needed to do to meet foreign competition, argued Villard, 
was "not to run away from it, but to improve our methods 
of production." 

Fourth, the tariff, Villard feared, might open the way 
to socialization. In a letter to the editor of the British jour- 
nal Spectator, Villard wrote that he had "never been able 
to see why Protection is not logically an entering wedge 
for the socialization of the industries involved." When the 
government voted a tariff schedule, ran Villard's argument, 
it went into partnership with each businessman for whose 
benefit it either checked or destroyed free competition 
from abroad and artificially limited the supply of goods 
available for use at home. In so doing, it robbed the pro- 
tected industry of some of its "private" nature. Villard 
had no patience with the argument that the tariff helped 
maintain and protect a capitalistic system at home. If 
public aid was necessary, then private enterprise was no 

Repudiation of a ^'Business''' Society 165 

longer private and ought to be managed in the public 

If it is right that the State should guarantee profits to 
anybody, why should it not guarantee those profits to 
itself? If there are certain industries deemed necessary 
to the well-being of the State which cannot be main- 
tained without levying on the whole people for their 
support, it would surely produce a far better political 
atmosphere if the State were openly to carry them on 
instead of granting to certain favoured ones the licence 
to charge higher prices without any corresponding re- 
sponsibility to or accounting to the State. 

It should, perhaps, be reiterated here that Villard was 
not advocating socialism. He firmly and repeatedly re- 
pudiated the Socialist platform. His argument here is made 
against the tariflt, which he did not think was necessary 
to the well-being of the economic system. He is arguing 
only that // such help were necessary, theii it seemed to him 
socialism was justified. 

Villard repeatedly attacked those tariff advocates who 
opposed government intervention in other areas. They 
were of the class of Herbert Hoover, who, posited Villard, 
did not see the "complete contradiction in his demand 
that the Government be kept out of private business and 
his insistence upon more and higher tariffs." The abolition 
of the tariff, as Villard saw it, meant a return to individual 
self-reliance and to business independence. Villard had 
other arguments against the tariff. Tariffs are a form of 
special privilege for which there is no place in a democracy. 
To seek out any one group for governmental favors, argued 

1 66 Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 

Villard, "makes of the beneficiaries a specially favored 
class and favoritism of this kind is utterly repugnant to 
the spirit of true democracy or a sound Republic." Through 
the tariff the government fosters a caste system, made up 
of those "who for various reasons cannot make any money, 
or as much money as they would like to make. It is there- 
fore," concluded Villard, "absolutely inimical to the doc- 
trine of a square deal to all and no favors to any man." 
Tariffs become a means of extortion of the public by this 
privileged class. By using the tariff to assure themselves 
of high profits, the protected industries are able to extort 
higher and higher prices from the domestic consumer. The 
tariff is in effect a hidden tax, posited Villard. "It makes 
every citizen pay tribute to whoever has influence enough 
to get Congress to interfere with natural trade laws." So 
far as Villard could see, there had never been a tariff, 
Republican or Democratic, which did not shelter extortion 
and favoritism. And not until Hoover, he exhorted, had even 
the "wildest tariff maniac ever suggested that the tariff 
helped everybody P The recipients of tariff benefits were 
described by Villard as "hogs" who needed to be put in 
their "proper pens." The tariff was also politically cor- 
ruptive: "You cannot put a political party in a position 
of dispensing tremendous tariff-favors, of regulating the 
size of the profits of any busines or industry," Villard wrote, 
"without inviting corruption. It is inevitable and inescapa- 
ble." The tariff, as a privilege granted to a few, destroyed 
equality before the government and demoralized political 
parties generally. About its corrupting and demoralizing 
effects on political parties, Villard reported: 

What results is that the Parties blackmail the manufac- 
turers and the manufacturers blackmail the Parties. This 

Repudiation of a ''''Business'^'' Society 16"] 

is, of course, less true of the Democrats than the Re- 
publicans. For years the latter have "fried the fat" out 
of the manufacturers, as our political slang has had it, 
in order to fill their campaign coifers, and in return 
the manufacturers have demanded as their reward the 
fixing of tariff duties . . . More than one Presidential 
Election has been bought and sold in precisely this way. 

What Villard termed the "buying and selling" of protective 
tariff favors had done more in his view to lower the 
standard of American politics than any other factor. Finally, 
the whole tariff system bore the stamp of immorality. It 
was immoral for the government to grant favors to any 
one group; it was immoral to tax the bulk of the people 
to support a privileged few; it was immoral for an elected 
representative to the United States Congress to support 
a tariff system which, according to Villard, "is steadily 
corrupting our political and economic life." He decried 
as immoral the logrolling tactics which Congressmen partic- 
ipated in over tariffs. 

It might be noted in this connection that Villard held 
Congress, rather than the Executive, directly responsible 
for tariffs. He was little impressed, therefore, with the pro- 
visions of the Fordney-McCumber Act of 1922 which re- 
tained the Tariff Commission, originally established under 
President Wilson's administration in 191 6, to facilitate a 
flexible tariff by recommending changes to the President, 
who could then proclaim new rates. Villard perceived that 
the Tariff Commission had come to be dominated by lobby- 
ists and that its existence was in any case superfluous: 

In the last analysis it is Congress that makes or unmakes 
tariffs, and not the President. Congress has permitted a 

1 68 Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 

tariff commission to come into being only because it 
knew that it would take forever to go through the whole 
list of rates and that it could cut off the commission 
whenever it saw fit. . . . to date the result of the com- 
mission's work has been a lowering of the tariff only on 
Bob- White quail, Canadian-grown cherries, millfeed, cre- 
sylic acid, and paintbrush handles. 

Villard scoffed at the arguments put forth by tariff ad- 
vocates. There was no menace from cheap foreign labor, 
he claimed. It was the unit cost of an article, not the cost of 
labor, which was the determining factor in price com- 
petition. That foreigners would benefit from our money 
if Americans purchased from abroad was another fallacy. 
It was not money per se that was important but the goods 
and services which were purchased with it. Our high stand- 
ard of living was not due to the tariff, posited Villard, 
striking at another protectionist argument, but in spite of 
it. Poor wages were paid in some of the most highly pro- 
tected industries, as in textiles, for example. It was not 
true either, said Villard, that foreigners really pay the 
tax inherent in the tariff or that United States trade with 
Japan was injurious. Actually, he argued, Japan had been 
our best customer, and her trade had benefited thousands 
of American workers. 

The period around 1930 found Villard particularly in- 
dignant over the sugar tariff as it affected the tiny republic 
of Cuba. The Fordney-McCumber Act was up for revision 
at this time, and Villard's hope was that the sugar tariff 
would not be increased. Nationalism, extortion of our citi- 
zens, the benefits to businessmen of special privilege, and 
the economic hardship imposed upon smaller nations — 
all were inherent in the sugar tariff as it related to Cuba: 

Repudiation of a '"''Business^'' Society 169 

I should first of all abolish the sugar tariff against Cuba, 
an island almost within sight of our shores, whose sugar 
would come into our country free and untaxed if the 
American flag flew over Morro Castle in Havana; in- 
stead of which, merely because Cuba is outside of our 
national lines, we raise the price of sugar to every man, 
woman, and child and destroy the value of great American 
investments in that island. Also we help to reduce work- 
ing masses in that country to misery and despair, and 
help to render them the helpless and hapless victims of 
a ruthless dictator — merely in order to insure profits to 
some of our citizens who unnecessarily entered the sugar 
business at home. 

In a radio address entitled "Sugar and the Sugar Tariff," 
Villard gave vent to his disapproval of logrolling; he made 
light of the necessity of the tariff as a protection against 
infant industry — an argument he considered a smoke screen 
for the selfish interests of the protectionists — and portrayed 
close connection between business and politics. Villard 
waxed satirical: 

Listen, tonight, for you shall hear the sweet saccharine 
story of sugar, and the sugar tariff, and how that tariff 
works so far as sugar is concerned, and why it is that we 
have a tariff at all . . . But this is just the way tariffs 
are made. Nothing scientific, nothing very honest about 
it, just a give and take log-rolling arrangement in Congress 
by which every fellow swaps his votes for protection 
for his beets or what not. It is politics and profits, with 
science and common sense nowhere, and much loud and 
baseless talk about necessary American infant industries, 
and its devil take the hindmost, and the hindmost, my 

I JO Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 

dear friends, happen to be you who are listening to my 
voice, you plain, but innocent, and at present unin- 
terested American consumers, who pay through the nose 
to support the sugar barons of Louisiana, and the beet 
sugar millionaires of Colorado. 

Villard's efforts on behalf of Cuban sugar proved useless. 
The subsequent Smoot Amendment to the Smoot-Hawley 
Tariff Bill provided that the rate on Cuban sugar be in- 
creased from 1.76 cents per pound to 2 cents per pound. 
Time after time throughout his administration. President 
Hoover defended the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act. He de- 
fended it on the ground that it was the very basis of safety 
to agriculture, that there was no measure more vital to 
labor, and that during the depression it saved people from 
enormously increased unemployment. Villard was scornful. 
If tariffs were the blessing Herbert Hoover considered 
them to be, then, argued Villard, all forty-eight states 
ought to be surrounded with "those magic walls which are 
supposed to raise the standard of living and bestow pros- 
perity upon all inside their circle." From Villard's point 
of view, the truth was quite to the contrary. Free trade 
was the only sound and rational policy for any country to 
adopt. The principle of free trade, he posited, was as sound 
as the principle that "men should be free and not enslaved, 
that people should determine their own fate and not for- 
eigners who happen to be able to impose their will upon 
them by force." Not only was free trade sound, but Villard 
was convinced that it was workable. His stand was for a 
thoroughgoing elimination of the tariff system. In the 
presidential election of 1928, Villard considered tariff re- 
form to be among the three big issues of the campaign; and 

Repudiation of a ^^Business^' Society iji 

while he cast his vote for Alfred Smith, he took issue 
with Smith over tariff reform. He rejected Smith's sugges- 
tion that the tariff be revised schedule by schedule. The only 
solution Villard could or would envisage was "laying an axe 
to the entire system." Two years later, he spoke in milder 
tones but to practically the same effect. He proposed what 
he termed a "gradual" approach in the direction of "tariffs 
for revenue only" with the protection principle eliminated. 
Later in the thirties, Villard was to support reciprocal 
trade agreements as a step toward the complete and world- 
wide free trade which he regarded as essential to peace, 
prosperity, democracy, and honest government. But by 
1947, in his last book. Free Trade — Free World, disillu- 
sioned with the gradual approach, he was to scoff at these 
agreements as compromises which served only to mitigate 

The high tariffs of the twenties which Villard abhorred 
can well be considered a form of subsidy, and as such he 
sometimes referred to them. A more direct subsidy which 
invited his indignation was government subsidization of 
merchant shipping. During the war the government as- 
sumed the responsibility of providing the nation with a 
merchant marine. In the early stages of formulating such 
a policy. President Wilson had explored the matter with 
Villard, whose reaction was that it "savoured of Socialism." 
After the war pressure was exerted to turn merchant ship- 
ping back to private owners — a move of which Villard, 
in his dedication to private initiative, approved. With the 
advent of Republicans to power, the pressure became more 
acute and finally resulted in the Merchant Marine Act! of 

172 Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 

1920 with its policy of quick and easy disposal of the mer- 
chant fleet to private operators. These operators, however, 
soon found themselves operating at a loss in competition 
with foreign lines. If the United States was to maintain the 
merchant fleet it required for the national defense, either 
government ownership or subsidy of private lines seemed 
necessary. Villard approved of neither course. He went so 
far as to acquire the Nautical Gazette to function as "an 
independent publication opposed to ship subsidies and a 
government-underwritten merchant marine." When the 
Nautical Gazette proved financially unrewarding, Villard 
turned to the pages of the Nation to advance his criticism 
of subsidies. He attacked ship subsidies on many of the 
same grounds on which he attacked tariffs. The government, 
through subsidies, was going into "partnership" with the 
operators; the subsidy was a form of "special privilege" in 
the sense that it guaranteed profits to certain businessmen 
without regard to their efficiency and competency; it Avas 
politically corruptive; ship subsidies were no more justified 
than subsidies to other necessities; they could be obviated by 
developing, on the part of our operators and builders, su- 
perior skill in construction and management. Villard added 
that such subsidies were a raid on the public treasury and 
a means of increasing the federal debt. Furthermore, a 
subsidized merchant reserve was no real security, dependent 
as it was on political fortunes. But another of Villard's 
causes was lost in the enactment of the Merchant Marine 
Act of 1928 which provided subsidized construction and 
operation costs and long-term mail-carrying contracts to 
private shippers. 

Villard's rejection of what he considered government 
halidouts in the years preceding the depression was 

Repudiation of a ^^Business^' Society ij^ 

thoroughgoing. It was not confined to subsidies to business 
but was applied to such areas as the veterans' bonus and 
farm benefits. As has already been noted, Villard was op- 
posed to tariffs on agricultural commodities. The 1920's 
marked a decline in American agriculture. Land values and 
prices dropped, and the farmers were heavily in debt for 
their overexpansion during the war years. European mar- 
kets were lost, and the farmers faced a growing surplus. 
The twenties gave rise to the controversial McNary- 
Haugen farm bills which called for price supports on farm 
goods, in addition to the agricultural tariffs already existent. 
Villard's Nation took a stand against the bills. "The farm- 
ers' salvation," declared the Nation, "lies chiefly in co- 
operation, in the abolition of the tariff, and in the opening 
up of foreign markets." On this particular issue, Villard's 
Nation joined President Coolidge as it had President Hard- 
ing in support of laissez faire. Herbert Hoover assumed 
a like position: "No governmental agency should engage 
in buying and selling and price fixing of products." '^ 

In June of 1929, however, Congress passed the Agri- 
cultural Marketing Act in response to Republican campaign 
promises of the previous fall for farm relief. This act re- 
jected the price-fixing and subsidy features of the McNary- 
Haugen proposals. The Marketing Act created a Federal 
Farm Board which was to function, generally speaking, to 
encourage the organization and development of agricultural 
cooperatives, to make loans to those cooperatives, and to 
enter into agreements to insure the cooperatives against 
loss because of price declines. Up to this point, it was the 

■^William S. Myers (ed.). The State Papers mtd Other Public 
Writings of Herbert Hoover (New York: Doubleday & Co., 
Inc., 1934), I, 34. 

174 Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 

kind of measure of which Villard approved. It was de- 
signed to help the farmers help themselves, without sub- 
sidy or the direct participation of government. The act, 
however, also provided that the Farm Board might create 
so-called "stabilization" corporations to purchase, handle, 
and market surpluses of particular commodities, thus re- 
pudiating Mr. Hoover's former stand. The Grain Stabiliza- 
tion and Cotton Stabilization corporations established 
thereby succeeded in pegging the market temporarily. They 
were caught, however, when they brought their operations 
to a terminal point, with surpluses which, in themselves, 
created problems and resulted in great cost to the public, 
to say nothing of the drastic fall in the prices of grains and 
cotton when the Farm Board withdrew. The Federal Farm 
Board lost $150,000,000 on cotton alone. Writing in 1930, 
before its full cost was known, Villard condemned this 
governmental venture into agriculture: 

I had expected that cries of socialism would be raised 
against it by an outraged business world, but business, 
suddenly acutely conscious of a falling-off in the farm- 
ers' buying power, did not make serious opposition. So 
the government supplied $200,000,000 to a board to 
coordinate the entire industry, to teach it to buy and sell 
cooperatively. But the Board went far beyond that, un- 
dertaking the suicidal policy of attempting from Wash- 
ington to peg the prices of world commodities, with 
the result that its losses to date are variously estimated 
at between $40,000,000 and $50,000,000. Surely the gov- 
ernment never went into business more deeply or more 

Repudiation of a ''Business''' Society ij^ 

Two years later Villard was urging the gradual and volun- 
tary creation of great cooperative farms, in an attempt to 
meet the problem of large industrial agricultural enter- 
prises versus individual farming, a problem he deemed of 
major consequence. He hoped, too, that a way could be 
found to eliminate the middleman, so that the farmer 
"living within forty miles of our greatest cities would no 
longer get between three and five cents a quart for milk 
that sells at around fifteen on the streets." 

The 1920's marked a new phase in the history of govern- 
ment relations with railroads. Prior to this period, railroad 
managers had opposed public control. Rapidly growing and 
powerful competition from pipe lines, motor vehicles, and 
waterways, however, sent railroad operators to Washington 
seeking protection; and governmental policy shifted from 
one of protecting the public against railroad abuses to one 
of keeping the roads operating in reasonable solvency. 
Villard's solution to the latter problem was government 
ownership and, if necessary, government operation. This 
may seem strange coming from the son of a railroad 
builder and president of four railroads and did in fact re- 
flect a change in view point for Villard. As he explained in 

I grew up in a school that believed wholeheartedly in 
private ownership and management of railroads. I have 
now reluctantly come to the conclusion that government 
ownership is absolutely essential to the welfare and 
economic development of the United States. 

176 Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 

I hope that we shall be able to stave off government 
operation by joint management of the railroads on the 
part of the government, public, and workers, similar 
to that suggested by the Plumb Plan, but if no other way 
is open I am willing to accept government operation and 

The railroads, as Villard saw them, were breaking down 
because of employee morale; they had become the creatures 
of special privilege. If the railroads, already subject to 
regulation, must now seek government financial aid, they 
ought to be taken over in the public interest. 

By 1932 Villard was urging the amalgamation of the 
railroads into a national corporation to be managed by 
directors appointed by the government. This was the policy 
he was urging on the Governor of New York, at that time 
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in anticipation of Roosevelt's 
candidacy for the Presidency. The kind of corporation 
Villard envisioned was similar to the Inland Waterways 
Corporation, an agency of the War Department which 
helped to develop navigation along the Ohio, Missouri, 
and Mississippi rivers with a resultant $6,000,000,000 a year 
business, offering stiff competition to rail carriers and mak- 
ing — in Villard's evaluation — "a complete success . . . 
where private capital facing private competition failed." 
Villard was more than ever concerned about the railroads 
at this time because of their failure to revive financially 
even after vast amounts of public funds had been poured into 
them through the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. 
Despite generous government loans, "one-third of the 
mileage was in bankruptcy. The roads were recognized as 

Repudiation of a ^'Business^^ Society ijy 

chronically sick, from reduced share of traffic, heavy debt, 
and duplication of services." ^ 

Villard was further encouraged to support government 
ownership when Interstate Commerce Commissioner Joseph 
Eastman argued that government ownership, operation, and 
amalgamation were the best solution to the railroad dilemma. 
Villard, like Eastman and others, could see no future in main- 
taining individual railroad lines. It seemed highly practical 
and inevitable that the roads would become either a great 
private or a public system, for their financial survival 
rested in the great savings inherent in combinations and 
joint use of facilities. The thought of one great, private 
railroad trust was not, however, to Villard's liking. "Let 
our government return to a laissez faire policy for the rail- 
roads," he warned in defiance of trusts, "and a J. P. Morgan, 
a modern Harriman, or another James J. Hill would within 
the space of a very few years bring the railroads of the 
country under one control." 

With railroad aid, as with tariffs, ship subsidies, and farm 
supports, Villard was fighting special privilege and needless 
expenditures of public funds for private interests. Whereas 
in the latter cases he opposed government participation, in 
the former he supported thoroughgoing government in- 
tervention. He maintained consistency by arguing in each 
case that socialization or nationalization was called for only 
when private enterprise absolutely could not do the job it- 
self and the enterprise was essential to public welfare. The 
railroads, in Villard's mind, had reached that point. With 
regard to water power, natural resources, and utilities, 

^ Broadus Mitchell and Louise P. Mitchell, American Eco- 
nomic History (New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1947), p. 798. 

lyS Villard, Liberal of the ip2o's 

Villard was to move an additional step toward more 
comprehensive governmental intervention in the economic 
sphere. In these areas he was motivated almost solely by 
a fear of the economic and political power inherent in 
their economic concentration. 

During the 1920's there was increasing demand for 
federal supervision to check the growing economic strength 
of electric power companies and its concentration in a few 
hands through holding company management and control. 
With these demands came a movement toward public own- 
ership and operation of power projects which had its in- 
ception in the Muscle Shoals project of the First World War. 
This movement was led in Congress by such liberals as 
Senators George Norris, Burton K. Wheeler, and Thomas 
I. Walsh. Throughout the twenties and into the thirties, 
Oswald Villard regularly and consistently spoke out for 
government retention and operation of Muscle Shoals, for 
a federal power installation on the Colorado River, and 
for public ownership and operation of the nation's water 
power in general. The La Follette platform which Villard 
supported in the 1924 presidential campaign included "pub- 
lic ownership of the nation's water power and the creation 
and development of a national super-water-power system, 
including Muscle Shoals." A similar plank was included in 
the 1925 platform of the Progressive Party of New York, 
with which Villard was closely associated. As with rail- 
roads, Villard feared the amalgamation of the nation's 
power companies into one great private concern. In 1930, 
speaking before the Virginia Institute of Public Affairs at 
Charlottesville, Villard explained that demand for a com- 

Repudiation of a ^'Business'^ Society 179 

mission similar to the Interstate Commerce Commission to 
control private power companies was caused primarily by 
the belief that "if something is not done to check the com- 
binations going on in this field there will soon be one 
company not only controlling all the power plants and 
public utilities in the United States but all those between 
the Rio Grande and the Straits of Magellen." ® A month or 
so later, in a Nation article, Villard was more specific in 
his criticism: "If we retain the fee simple, we may grant 
licenses for operation under strict conditions insuring rates 
based on bona fide capital investment and not upon items 
such as huge and unreasonable fees to bankers, payment to 
lobbyists and other more than dubious items which have 
often been charged as part of the original investment." 

Villard praised the water power policies of Alfred E. 
Smith and Franklin D. Roosevelt while each was Governor 
of New York State. Both favored state ownership and 
control of the state's power resources. Governor Smith 
made power policy the greatest single issue in his guber- 
natorial campaign of 1926 and made it clear that he sought 
to "retain and preserve the ownership of the source of 
supply for the people of the State." ^° In his 1928 Annual 
Message to the New York State Legislature, he reasserted 
his position: 

There are but two roads upon which we can travel. 
There is no middle course. We must either take a chance 
and lease these properties for a term of years, which 

^ New York Times, Aug. 13, 1930, p. 18, col. 8. 

I*' Alfred E. Smith, Progressive Deniocracy: Addresses and 
State Papers of Alfred E. Smith (New York: Harcourt, Brace 
& Co., 1928), p. 321. 

I bo 

Villard, Liberal of the i^zd's 

really means giving them away with the possible right 
of recapture after we are all dead and gone ... or de- 
clare for ourselves at once, retaining not only our full and 
complete ownership of these properties but the right 
to make contracts at rates favorable to the real owners 
of the power — the people of the State of New York.^^ 

Of Alfred E. Smith, Villard once wrote approvingly that 
"he has fought all the great power combinations within 
the State, to prevent the exploitation by private capitalistic 
interests of what is the great heritage of all the people." 

In 1932 Villard urged Franklin D. Roosevelt to apply 
the same principles to the power problem which he had 
enunciated as Governor of New York State and to favor 
government operation and distribution of power at Boulder 
Dam and Muscle Shoals. Roosevelt, too, had taken the 
position that New York State power belonged to the people 
but, like Smith before him, was unable to secure his 
objective because of Republican opposition in both Albany 
and Washington. 

Villard was just as insistent that government take over 
other natural resources. Oil, timber, coal, and iron were 
among the resources he sought to protect. The Teapot 
Dome scandal of the Harding administration which in- 
volved the secret leasing of naval oil reserves to powerful 
operators Harry F. Sinclair and Edward L. Doheny, not 
only to their own financial benefit but to that of Secretary 
of the Interior Albert B. Fall as well, had shocked Villard. 
Indictments for conspiracy and bribery were brought against 
Fall, Doheny, and Sinclair in June, 1924 — the month in 
which the Republican National Convention met to nom- 

^^ Ibid., p. 333. 

Repudiation of a ^^Business''^ Society i8i 

inate its presidential candidate for the forthcoming election. 
Villard satirically referred to the convention as that of the 
"fit-to-rule." He was embittered by the fact that, in the 
face of the Teapot Dome scandal, the convention had the 
hypocrisy to go on record, in the name of the "Great 
Conservationist," Theodore Roosevelt, in favor of protec- 
tion of natural resources: "All of its specious |)romises that 
the conservation policies of Theodore Roosevelt should be 
maintained and the oil and timber and unoccupied coal 
lands should be reserved for the people, the delegates 
swallowed with their tongues in their cheeks — all that the 
Sinclairs and Dohenys and the timber and coal barons have 
not yet got." The "Progressive" platform which Villard 
supported in that same presidential election year called for 
strict public control and permanent conservation of all 
the nation's resources, including coal, iron and other ores, 
oil, and timber lands. In the following year, 1925, the 
platform of the Progressive Party of New York, to most 
of which Villard subscribed, supported "public ownership 
and operation of the nation's natural resources such as coal, 
iron, oil, timber." By 1927 Villard was expressing dis- 
couragement at the progress made in protecting natural 
resources. "Who speaks now of the popular control of 
our natural resources?" he queried; and among the twelve 
points he offered as a basis on which to take up the reform 
movement of the early 1900's, which had been abandoned 
because of the war, was government ownership of natural 
resources, of water power, and of mines. 

The years 1930 and 1931 saw extensive unrest and agita- 
tion in the mining industries. Organized miners were forced 
to take a reduction in wages, and there was widespread 
unemployment because of competition from the nonunion 

1 82 Villard, Liberal of the ip20^s 

fields in some of the southern states, among which was 
West Virginia. Speaking before the West Virginia Editorial 
Association on October 30, 193 1, Villard once more took 
the now-familiar position that if an industry could not 
survive under private enterprise then the government should 
take it over. And he applied this theory to iron as well as 
to coal, in spite of the fact that he was the owner and 
operator of the Fort Montgomery Iron Company: 

I am a mine owner, and a mine operator myself, and 
also, as it happens, on the verge of bankruptcy. . . . but 
I say to you that if the conditions in your distressed min- 
ing fields cannot be remedied by the operators, or by 
such powers of protest as the working man may have, 
or by both working together then I think that they 
should be put out of business, and the mines taken over 
by the government. 

Among those measures of the Hoover administration 
for which Villard had respect was the President's with- 
drawal of all oil lands from leasing except those leases 
which had been made mandatory by Congress. Villard 
ultimately wanted government ownership and operation 
not only of oil wells but of pipe lines as well. He also 
favored socialization of radio, telephone, telegraph, and 
general utilities. Of the latter, Villard said (facetious only 
in the assumption of the dictator role), "If I were dicta- 
tor ... I should enormously lighten the burden of taxa- 
tion by having the profits of public utilities go into the 
pockets not of stockholders, but of the communities which 
operate them, or into a general treasury." 

A fair statement of Villard's position on natural resources 

Repudiation of a '"''Business^'' Society 183 

and utilities is found in the four-year presidential plan pre- 
pared by the League for Independent Political Action in 
1932. This was a plan which the league felt any President 
with social vision and a progressive political party behind 
him could initiate and in part achieve between the years 
1932 and 1936. The plan, point by point, was almost identi- 
cal with Villard's own position, and he hopefully published it 
in its entirety in the Natio?i of February 17, 1932. With 
regard to power and public utilities the league took the 
position that 

Private ownership of the power industry and public 
utilities has resulted in evils intolerable in a democracy. 
Regulation has failed to protect the public interest and 
has proved a source of corruption of government be- 
cause profits of power monopolies and other utility com- 
panies are so great as to form irresistible incentive for 
breaking down and controlling regulation and under- 
mining the integrity of government. Public utility com- 
panies have established the greatest racket in the world, 
taking each year from the pockets of American workers 
at least $500,000,000 through unfair charges and excess 
rates. Experience has shown that regulation cannot be 
relied upon to protect the public. 

The plan endorsed immediate federal ownership and op- 
eration of Muscle Shoals and other federal power projects; 
federal and state legislation to carry out the project of 
public ownership and operation of power and public util- 
ities; and legislation providing for control of coal, oil, 
and railroads in the public interest, looking forward to 
eventual pubKc ownership. 

184 Villard, Liberal of the ip20^s 

A characteristic feature of the economic system of the 
twenties was consolidation. In all industries there was a 
trend toward merger and amalgamation. A common strand 
may be seen running through Villard's considerations of 
the railroad problem and of private versus public power, 
namely his fear of consolidation, of trusts, and of monopoly. 
This fear was also part of his insistence on government 
ownership of natural resources. "More and more people 
are beginning to see," he wrote, "that uncontrolled exploita- 
tion of natural resources means . . . ruin of the sm.all pro- 
ducers." Yet Villard saw the apparent inevitability of big 
business in a complex, industrialized society. As close as 
he was to La Follette's 1924 presidential campaign, he 
criticized La Follette's position on the trust question as 
"backward," for it called for the use of federal power only 
"to crush private monopoly, not to foster it." To Villard's 
mind. La Follette's position in practice meant the en- 
forcement of the Sherman Act and the criminal prosecution 
of those who indulged in monopoly or trade agreements. 
Villard argued that such a measure was unrealistic: "Our 
economic and industrial situation has gone far beyond the 
imprisonment of a few trust heads and the dissolution of 
a few more trusts so that their individual parts may wax 
greater than ever by arriving at the same result in other 
ways. We cannot return to the era of small business if we 
would." As long as big business was here to stay, Villard 
was convinced that government ownership in some fields 
and the threat of it in others were the only methods which 
would bring an end to the waste, duplication, and other 
evils of large-scale industry. He did not share Herbert 
Hoover's faith that business could successfully police itself. 

Repudiation of a "^Business''^ Society 185 

When Hoover became Secretary of Commerce in 192 1, 
he was convinced that industrial waste, unfair practices, 
and other abuses could be eliminated without destruction 
of either equality of opportunity or individual initiative 
through cooperative action on the part of industry. He 
recommended, consequently, that the Sherman Act be 
amended to allow the establishment of trade associations. 
These associations were to perform a number of functions. 
Among them were the preparation of statistical abstracts 
from information supplied by the members as a guide to 
future production; the standardization of products along 
the lines of variety, grade, and quality; adoption of uniform 
credit policies; settlement of trade disputes by arbitration 
instead of litigation; elimination of unfair practices and 
misrepresentation of goods; promotion of uniform improve- 
ment of working conditions; cooperation for economy in 
insurance; establishment of common agencies to handle all 
problems of transportation; and cooperative research. 

Following Hoover's suggestions, American industry be- 
tween 192 1 and 1925 became a vast superstructure of trade 
and industrial associations. Villard looked upon them with 
skepticism and disfavor: 

In view of the fact President Hoover is reported to 
be in favor of repealing the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, 
and has encouraged the coming together of manufac- 
turers in all lines of enterprise to formulate intertrade 
agreements in order to cut out waste, duplication, and the 
creation of unnecessary articles, the question is sometimes 
raised whether we are not coming to the Communist ideal 
from another point of approach. . . . Certainly fewer and 

1 86 Villard, Liberal of the ip20^s 

fewer people believe that the private-profit motive when 
left alone to exploit the riches of the earth is harmless, or 
even beneficial in the absence of monopoly. 

Thus Villard puts an ironic twist to the proposal of rugged 
individualist Herbert Hoover. 

The 1920's comprised a period of high prosperity for most 
Americans, the farmer being a major exception. There was 
widespread enjoyment of a high level of wages, tremendous 
capitalist expansion, and a heavy production and consump- 
tion of new goods. Between 1930 and 1932, however, pro- 
duction decreased 36 per cent; labor income decreased 40 
per cent; and the farmer's income decreased 50 per cent. In 
April of 1930 there were approximately 3,187,000 unem- 
ployed. By February of 1932 the figures are calculated to 
have reached 10,000,000 unemployed, while at the lowest 
point of the depression — 1933 — there were probably 15,000,- 
000 unemployed. Poverty, starvation, and a housing shortage 
accompanied the prostration of business. 

The Hoover administration proceeded in the face of the 
depression to argue that the economic structure of the coun- 
try was basically sound and that the solution to the economic 
ills of the United States rested on voluntary cooperation of 
business, labor, and agriculture, along with reliance on indi- 
vidual initiative. Hoover attempted to get industry volun- 
tarily to adopt construction programs, to maintain wages, 
and to check the discharge of employees. He asked labor 
to cooperate by refraining from striking for wage in- 
creases. The government itself undertook an expanded fed- 

Repudiation of a ^^Business''^ Society 187 

eral building program, and Hoover urged states and munici- 
palities to do likewise. The Federal Farm Board was estab- 
lished to help agriculture secure higher prices, and the Re- 
construction Finance Corporation was established to make 
government credits available to banks, credit companies, in- 
surance companies, and railroads. 

To alleviate unemployment, which with its accompanying 
hardships was the most serious problem confronting the 
nation in 193 1 and 1932, Hoover's administration took such 
steps as curtailing immigration and establishing a Committee 
for Unemployment Relief to coordinate the relief program 
of private, state, and local agencies. When the demand was 
made for direct federal aid to the unemployed, however, 
Hoover refused: 

This is not an issue as to whether people should go hun- 
gry or cold in the United States. It is solely a question of 
the best method by which hunger and cold shall be pre- 
vented. It is a question as to whether the American people 
on one hand will maintain the spirit of charity and mutual 
self help through voluntary giving and the responsibility 
of local government as distinguished on the other hand 
from appropriations out of the Federal Treasury for such 
purposes. My own conviction is strongly that if we break 
down this sense of responsibility of individual generosity 
to individual and mutual self help in the country in times 
of national difficulty and if we start appropriations of this 
character we have not only impaired something infinitely 
valuable in the life of the American people but have struck 
at the roots of self-government.^^ 
12 Myers, op. cit., p. 496. 

1 88 Villard, Liberal of the i^zo^s 

Unfortunately for Mr. Hoover's philosophy, the funds of 
private charitable organizations were soon exhausted, and 
additional donations were not forthcoming in the face of the 
severe and uncertain economic situation facing most Amer- 
icans. As for state and local governments, the relief burden 
was too much for them. Oswald Garrison Villard was sharp, 
cynical, and bitter in his condemnation of Mr. Hoover's re- 
fusal to sanction relief legislation: 

Nowhere will it appear on the statute books that, during 
the greatest economic crisis which has ever confronted 
the United States, so far not one single dollar has been 
spent as an opiate of Government charity. Americans may 
be dying of starvation . . . but if that is the case they are 
dying with their systems undrugged and their characters 
unbesmirched by anything approaching a dole — a dole to 
Mr. Hoover is apparently the final act of perfidy of any 

Yet Hoover's administration through the Reconstruction 
Finance Corporation alone channeled millions of dollars into 
an attempt to strengthen banks, railroads, and corporations 
and passed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, the highest in United 
States history. With reference to the men who profited by 
what Villard considered governmental favors, he commented 

They, like President Hoover, believe that a government's 
giving cash to a needy individual destroys that man's moral 
fiber, weakens his character, and robs him of initiative, 
self-reliance, and self-respect. Yet they are quite certain 
that governmental grants to what they consider needy 

Repudiation of a ^'Business'" Society 189 

corporations have none of these evil effects upon the char- 
acter, or practices, or initiative, or self-reliance of the 
several corporate managements. 

Hoover seemed convinced that the measures his admin- 
istration was taking v^ere not only correct but corrective. 
His administration issued periodic optimistic statements 
about the immediacy of recovery. Characteristic is a state- 
ment of the President himself on May i, 1930. "I am con- 
vinced," he told the United States Chamber of Commerce, 
"we have now passed the worst and with continued unity of 
effort we shall rapidly recover. There is one certainty in the 
future of a people of the resources, intelligence, and char- 
acter of the people of the United States — that is, pros- 
perity." ^^ Villard received Hoover's optimism with humor- 
ous contempt. "For Mr. Hoover and his Cabinet, and other 
talkers of economic nonsense," he wrote, "I should reserve 
the Island of Yap with the requirement that morning and 
evening they should meet together to inform one another 
that prosperity is just around the corner, and that every day 
in every way things are getting better and better." 

By 193 1 Villard was greatly distressed at the poverty in 
the midst of plenty which was reflected in the fact that many 
Americans were quite literally starving while the govern- 
ment held, through the Federal Farm Board, huge surpluses 
of grain. It was not until the spring of 1932 that some of 
the Farm Board's holdings were turned over to the Red 
Cross for channeling to the nation's needy. 

Demands for more direct and extensive intervention by 
government to relieve conditions and bolster the economy 
became insistent. The usual proposals for government action 

^^Ibid., p. 289. 

190 Villard, Liberal of the i^zo^s 

included government control over capital allocations for 
productive purposes only, price control, a public works 
program, an increase in labor's purchasing power, and gov- 
ernment ownership in those areas where natural monopoly 
prevailed — the railroads and pubKc utilities for example. 
Villard endorsed these proposals and added others. His per- 
sonal program to meet the emergency included radical re- 
duction or abolition of tariffs; cancellation or drastic reduc- 
tion of reparations and war debts (There was no hope for 
American recovery, posited Villard, until Europe was well 
along the way to economic rehabilitation.); government 
ownership and operation of railroads; reduction of govern- 
ment waste in veterans' services and military and naval ex- 
penditures; introduction of the five-day week and removal 
of children under eighteen years of age from all industry; 
mandatory nation-wide adoption of an old-age pension 
similar to that of New York State; a comprehensive unem- 
ployment insurance program; and national support of the 
unemployed wherever it was impossible for cities and states 
to carry the load. Villard offered two approaches to the last 
proposal: first, the adoption of large-scale public works 
programs to be financed by a bond flotation and devoted 
particularly to the rebuilding of cities to eliminate slums; and 
second, direct monetary payments to the unemployed. "We 
spend billions to kill Germans," complained Villard, refer- 
ring to the war, "why not spend billions to keep Americans 
alive?" Villard's plan for the financing of such a proposal 
was the flotation of a long-term loan of $2,000,000,000. Sim- 
ilar to wartime bonds, these were to bear a reasonable rate of 
interest and be issued in small denominations. Villard was 
confident that the loan would be subscribed because those 
who were hoarding their savings would find in the bonds 
the absolutely safe investment they were searching for. Of 

Repudiation of a ''Business'''' Society 191 

the $2,000,000,000 to be raised in this fashion, Villard pro- 
posed the use of $1,200,000 to be disbursed through states 
and localities to the unemployed; $400,000,000 to be spent on 
converting empty buildings and erecting barracks for home- 
less unemployed who were willing to labor on public works 
programs for room and board; and $400,000,000 to be used 
in an attempt to keep the farmer on the farm. 

Villard argued that his measures were designed not only 
to meet the immediate problems of the time but to provide 
a general overhauling of the economic system in the firm 
conviction that it was underdistribution rather than over- 
production which was the main problem facing the Amer- 
ican economy. According to Villard, recovery depended 
upon the restoration of purchasing power to the masses, a 
view which was shared by neither businessmen nor the busi- 
ness-dominated administration. Business interests refused to 
admit that there was anything fundamentally wrong with 
the economic system of the United States. To Villard they 
were extremely shortsighted, if not totally blind, in not be- 
ing able to see a causal relationship between existing social 
institutions and the severe depression with which the coun- 
try was faced: "If we work out of this situation they will 
wish to go on doing business just as before, supremely 
happy in their belief that they alone are fit to rule us, with- 
out making the slightest effort to reorganize our social, polit- 
ical, or economic life." Villard was insistent on the point that 
our economic and political systems were faulty and that re- 
covery could not be achieved without reform. His observa- 
tion of conditions and events in other parts of the world 
served only to re-enforce his convictions: 

If we are to do anything else but drift we must recognize 
the fact that the competitive system has failed at many 

192 Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 

points, must begin to do at once what has been done 
abroad — formulate far-reaching economic and political 
programs to deal with the new situation. Sooner or later 
this will have to be done. We too are part of a world cur- 
rent; it is sweeping us onward. Shall we drift through the 
rapids without thought as to what may happen to us, or 
shall we set ourselves a course and hold it true? That is 
the question which confronts us all. 

The turning point for the United States was to take place 
with the Democratic victory of 1932. The discrediting of the 
business leadership of the twenties paved the way for con- 
certed governmental intervention in economic affairs and for 
far-reaching reforms. The action for which Villard and other 
liberals had pleaded for more than a decade was forthcoming 
with Franklin D. Roosevelt's assumption of the Presidency 
and his pursuance of a New Deal for the American people 
which spelled an end to laissez faire. 

American liberals came to discard laissez faire, in its impli- 
cation of rugged individualism, as an outmoded, unworkable 
doctrine. In its search for social justice, American liberalism 
committed itself to the use of governmental power and agen- 
cies to remedy those evils, environmental and economic, 
from which the less fortunate classes suffered. American 
liberalism became concerned with the welfare of ordinary 
men and particularly those who were at the greatest eco- 
nomic disadvantage under a newly emerged economic struc- 
ture. Liberalism was to attempt in the 1930's to maintain or 
re-create in the individual a sense of self-respect even in the 
face of economic insecurity. It was to seek higher standards 
in a host of aspects of social life. 


Amroach to InUrnationalism 
and Pacifism 

Internationalism and pacifism as aspects of American 
liberalism have embraced an understandinp- of foreign 
nations, a respect for their people, a sympathy for their 
problems, and a desire to work cooperatively with them on 
matters of mutual interest in order that peace and harmony 
among nations may prevail. 

Such an attitude is consistent, for the most part, with the 
philosophic tenets of American liberalism. Indeed, it is an 
attempt to apply those tenets in the international sphere. Hu- 
manism and individualism, for example, are concerned for the 
happiness, freedom, and progress of all mankind and assume 
the dignity and worth of every human being. Humanitarian- 
ism is an extension of the Christian doctrine that all men 
everywhere are created equal in the sight of God and by 
the law of the universe. Rationalism assumes that the prob- 
lems of organized society can be solved by men through 
reason and without recourse to violence. The acceptance 
of internationalism by the American liberal seems only logi- 
cal if viewed as an attempt on the part of the liberal to 
guarantee in the international sphere the same degree of 


194 Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 

morality, of political and economic freedom, and of respect 
for the individual as he sought to establish at home. 

The liberalism of pacifism is rooted in rationalism as well 
as humanitarianism. The former allows for the assumption 
that nations, like individuals, can find rational modes of con- 
ducting their relations with one another and reasonable solu- 
tions to their problems. It is not, therefore, surprising to find 
that Oswald Garrison Villard assumed a strong international- 
ist and pacifist position throughout the 1920's. His was a 
keen and lively interest in almost every issue which arose 
in the international sphere during that period, combined 
with a violent hatred of war. He spoke out vigorously and 
efi^ectively against war and on behalf of the search for peace- 
ful means of settling international problems; he advocated 
self-government for all nations throughout the world; he 
attacked American imperialism wherever it was evidenced. 

Villard's views on international aff^airs reflected always a 
respect for and generosity toward alien peoples — an atti- 
tude he attributed at least in part to the influence of Henry 
Villard, his father. Villard once wrote of his father, "Citi- 
zen of two lands, no narrow nationalism could be his. He ab- 
horred those who seek by metes and bounds to stake out 
for their selfish selves a part of the world to have it all their 
own, letting the devil take care of the rest. He felt the world 
should be as free as the air . . . He hated no man for his 
color, and feared none because his was a diff^erent hue, a 
different tongue, another faith, a strange and bafiiing mode of 
life." Henry Villard's influence on his son's attitudes was 
felt on yet another matter. Oswald Villard wrote of him, 
"He, long a leader in large affairs, friend of all the states- 
men of his time, who had given his life to practical con- 
structive effort, revolted with his whole soul from that sum 

Approach to hiternationalism and Pacifism 195 

of all villainies, war, which turns men into beasts, which 
destroys and never builds up, and never leaves the world 
but worse. Is it any wonder that he who writes this should 
share these views?" ^ Oswald Garrison Villard's categorical 
opposition to war as a mode of solving disputes among na- 
tions was sustained throughout the whole of his adult life. 

As early as April 24, 191 5, Oswald Garrison Villard ad- 
dressed a meeting of the Massachusetts Branch of the 
Women's Peace Party. He took the occasion to urge a new 
seat in the Cabinet of the President of the United States, 
namely that of Secretary of Peace, whose objective would 
be to divert to the cause of the maintenance of peace a 
portion of the $147,000,000 of federal funds allocated to the 
Navy. Said Villard, "The militarists have done badly since 
1900. Give the Pacifists a chance. Let us try our hand. God 
knows we can't do any worse." ^ 

Villard did not intend facetiousness in making this sugges- 
tion. From the Spanish-American War on, he was a dedi- 
cated pacifist. He belonged to a number of voluntary organ- 
izations dedicated to the cause of peace. Among them were 
the American Union Against Militarism, the Church Peace 
Union, the Committee on Militarism in Education, the Keep 
America Out of War Congress, the National Peace Con- 
ference, the New York Peace Society, and the Women's 
International League for Peace and Freedom. Indeed, it 
was Villard's uncompromising pacifism which led indirectly 

1 See "A True Fairy Tale," in Sydney Strong (ed.). What I 
Owe to My Father (New York: Henry Holt & Co., Inc., 193 1), 
pp. 157-58. 

-New York Tirnes, April 25, 1915, sec. Ill, p. 3, col. 4. 

196 Villard, Liberal of the ip20^s 

to his relinquishment of the Evening Post during the First 
World War and directly to his final break with the editorial 
staff of the Nation just prior to the United States's entrance 
into the Second World War. 

Villard's hatred of war was based on moral, practical, 
and philosophical grounds. The moral problem posed by 
war was violation of the Christian ethic in that it was "faith- 
less to our belief in Jesus and to our beHef in everything 
God-like in man," and again Villard put conscience above 
obedience to the state. Deploring the growing militarism of 
the United States, Villard wrote, "There are many things 
above the State and superior to it, and one of these is Chris- 
tianity. Where the teachings of Jesus and allegiance to the 
State conflict, you will invariably find me putting Jesus 
above the State. Reverence for the State? . . . Why should 
we reverence it? It is meant to be the servant of peoples, 
and it has become their master and beyond their control, 
slaughtering millions as it will." 

On the practical side, the effects of war were uncontrol- 
lable. "If you go to war," argued Villard, "you cannot 
tell where the war will end any more than you can proph- 
esy the date of its conclusion. Its ramifications are endless; 
its reverberations carry to the ends of the earth." Villard, 
for example, attributed to the war the scandals of the Hard- 
ing administration. The war, Villard argued, put an end to 
Wilson's New Freedom; and the debate over the League of 
Nations and Wilson's subsequent unpopularity led to the 
victory of the Republicans in 1920 with its return to con- 
servatism and materialism as reflected in the Teapot Dome 
scandal: "The crassest of materialism reigns in Washington 
by grace of Woodrow Wilson's plunge into war, and where 

Approach to Internationalism and Pacifism 197 

materialism is there sits corruption. The Denbys, the Falls, 
the Daughertys, the Dohenys, now all condemned by one 
court or another, are some of the responses to the appeals 
for war, to the setting free of the passions that war spells. 
These are some of the most striking results of the effort to 
achieve righteousness at home and abroad by unparalleled 
blood-letting." Pragmatically Villard could never conceive 
of war as a means to the solution of a problem or the attain- 
ment of an objective, no matter how difficult the problem or 
how admirable the aim. Villard once quoted Franklin K. 
Lane, Secretary of the Interior under President Woodrow 
Wilson, as saying that "life is just a beautiful adventure, 
to be flung away for any good cause," and Villard was 
quick to point out that not only was the "manner of the 
flinging" important, but one had to be quite certain of the 
cause: "He [Lane] lived to see a hundred thousand young 
Americans make a beautiful adventure of their precious 
young existences, at the behest of Mr. Wilson and his 
Cabinet, flinging them away for some exquisitely painted 
ideals which have not materialized and will not materialize 
in any such way." 

Villard's position on the futility of war was stated ex- 
plicitly and eloquently in the Nation: 

You may glorify the struggle as you will, and supply it, 
if you please, with aims as lofty as you can possibly por- 
tray by pen or voice; you may attribute to yourself and 
your allies the purest motives, the noblest objectives, the 
most humanitarian desires. You will inevitably fail to 
achieve those ends, and your beautifully cadenced words 
will turn to ashes because it is ordained by the way of the 

198 Villard, Liberal of the ip20^s 

world that goodness and virtue, the safeguarding of human 
rights and what is called civilization can never be achieved 
by letting loose hell upon earth. 

Villard's case in point was, of course, the First World 
War, Not only did it fail to achieve the aims set forth by 
President Wilson, particularly the furtherance of democracy 
and the guarantee of the rights of small nations, but its after- 
math was, in Villard's view, a situation even worse than that 
which had existed prior to it. Writing in 1927, he said: 

Each passing year has made plainer that democracy was 
never so unsafe, that the rights of small nations were never 
so jeopardized — those small nations to whom Mr. Wilson 
pledged the victory, and "the privilege of men every- 
where to choose their way of life and obedience." His own 
nation still subjugates Haiti ... it still overruns Nicara- 
gua with marines, and threatens Mexico because its people 
demand the "privilege of men everywhere to choose their 
way of life and of obedience." To Russians we deny tliis 
same privilege because we hate the form their revolution 
has taken, and think infinitely more of our individual 
properties than of their human rights. 

In eleven European countries despots wipe their feet upon 
the prostrate bodies of Liberty and Democracy. 

On the philosophic side, war violated the liberal tenets of 
humanitarianism, rationalism, and individualism. Villard saw 
in war the negation of liberalism. He once commented, again 
with reference to Franklin K. Lane, that "great liberal that 
Mr. Lane was, he had not learned the lesson that when war 

Approach to Internationalism and Pacifism 199 

touches liberalism it shrivels and withers where it does not 
utterly destroy it." On another occasion, Villard wrote that 
"only one thing is certain: Wherever war, there liberty 
shrivels, lies insensate — dies." 

It should be noted that pacifist liberals have not always 
embraced the absolute pacifist position, that is, opposition to 
any participation in war under all circumstances. The pacifist 
liberal has not always been nonresistant and has, for example, 
lent his support to a defense against invasion or, once the 
nation was at war, supported the war effort. Indeed, even the 
peace societies subordinated their principles to the pursuit 
of Allied victory once the United States had entered the war. 

Much as he abhorred war, Villard's pacifist position, too, 
was not of the extreme right. Once the United States had 
entered World War I, Villard, Uke others, was concerned 
that the victory should be an Alhed one: "We were in the 
war and those of my faith certainly did not want the Ger- 
mans to win and hoped from our hearts that, if the war must 
be fought to a finish on the battlefields, our troops would 
speedily end it. The last thought of any of us would have 
been to put obstacles in the way." ^ Although Villard refused 
to lend his approval to the war and would have refused to 
bear arms if called upon, he nevertheless performed those 
services which were within the bounds of his conscience. He 
recalls those activities in Fighting Years: 

I had hoped from the beginning to enter some non- 
military governmental service. Here, as at other points, 
the dissenters were divided as to how far they could go. 
It was obvious that one could not escape participating in 
the war, try as one might, for every railroad, theatre and 
3 Villard, Fighting Years, pp. 326-27. 

200 Villard, Liberal of the i^zd's 

concert ticket, every stamp purchased and all taxes paid 
contributed to the war. I, for one, freely bought Liberty 
bonds and conformed otherwise where I conscientiously 
could. As president of the Dobbs Ferry Hospital, for 
whose initial construction I and one other had raised the 
funds, plus a bequest from my father, I took the lead in 
offering its services to the government and so, far from 
being indifferent to the needs of wounded soldiers, con- 
tributed freely to relief agencies, specifying, however, 
in the case of the Red Cross, that my gift should be ear- 
marked to be used only for reconstruction in France.* 

Whether or not Villard could ever have brought himself 
to approve of United States participation in war is difficult 
to judge. He held consistently, from as early as 19 17 on, to 
the position that the commitment of the United States to 
war was a policy which only the voters should decide, and 
Villard gave the impression that he would be willing to abide 
by the results of a referendum. "But should the people at 
large decide for war," he once commented, "it is a long-time 
American habit for all to bow to the will of the whole 
people." ^ One tends to suspect, however, that had a referen- 
dum decided in favor of war, Villard not only would have 
considered the majority in error but would have resorted to 
the argument that even a majority vote could not make war 
morally right. Villard, however, was convinced in his own 
mind that the majority of the people of the United States did 
not favor participation in World War I but that their views 
were not heard above the clamor of the few who favored 
participation and who controlled the bulk of the American 

4/^fJ., pp. 332-33. 

^ Neiv York Times, Feb. 19, 191 7, p. 2, col. 6. 

Approach to Internationalism and Pacifism 201 

press: "Many hundreds of thousands who were opposed to 
our going to war, and are opposed to it now, still feel that 
their views — as opposed to those of the prosperous and in- 
tellectual classes — were not voiced in the press last winter. 
They know that their position today is being misrepresented 
as disloyal or pro-German by the bulk of the newspapers." 
In the debate in the Senate which followed President Wil- 
son's request for a declaration of war, liberal Senators Varda- 
man, Norris, and La Follette expressed these same views. 
Senator James K. Vardaman (Democrat, Mississippi), for 
example, declared that, even to liberate Germany from the 
cruel domination of kings, he could not vote for sacrificing 
a million men without first consulting the people to be sacri- 
ficed for that deliverance.^ Norris of Nebraska bitterly ac- 
cused munitions makers, stockbrokers, bond dealers, and a 
servile press of being responsible for the catastrophe at hand: 
"We are going into war upon the command of gold . . . 
I feel that we are committing a sin against humanity and 
against our countrymen." '^ La Follette, too, called attention 
to the lack of a medium through which the people could 
voice their opinion: "The President of the United States, in 
his message of the 2nd of April, said that the European war 
was brought on by Germany's rulers without the sanction or 
will of the people. For God's sake, what are we doing now? 
Does the President of the United States feel that the will of 
the American people is being consulted in regard to this 
declaration of war? The people of Germany surely had as 
much consideration as he has given the people of the United 
States." 8 

^ Congressional Record, 65th Cong., ist sess., April 4, 19 17, pp. 

'^ Ibid., p. 214. ^ Ibid., April 5, 1917, p. 372. 

202 Villard, Liberal of the 1^26's 

In Villard's eyes, the war-making power in the United 
States which constitutionally belongs to Congress had been 
shifted to the Executive: 

Under the constitution, the power to make war is vested in 
the Congress, but this clause is as much a dead letter today 
as the 14th and 15th Amendments .... The war-mak- 
ing power has been taken over by the President of the 
United States, partly against the wish of the Congress, 
partly because of its indifference or by its consent . . . 
the Executive has developed a technique, as Mr. Wilson 
proved at the time of our going into the World War, 
which makes it possible for him to reduce Congress to 
absolute submission. Given a period of public hysteria, of 
a press stirred to sensationalism by the possibility of a 
conflict, and a President determined upon having his way, 
and Congress is practically helpless. The President may 
march an army into foreign territory, or send a fleet to 
bombard a helpless foreign city, as Mr. Wilson did in 19 15, 
and the country is committed before Congress can act. 
Then it is only necessary to call upon the country to stand 
by the President and the flag, and the thing is done. 

However, Villard argued that the real issue was not the re- 
spective rights of Congress and the President in making war 
but was rather a question of whether either one of them 
should have that power: 

What the situation not only of this country, but of the 
entire world calls for is the limitation of the war-making 
power of both Congress and the Executive. Wars, as we all 
know, have now entirely changed their character . . . 
Conscription and the great development of the art of war, 

Approach to Internationalism and Pacifism 203 

has so changed things that when hostilities begin the entire 
population is at once affected. . . . the victims suffer eco- 
nomically just as much as the vanquished . . . The ques- 
tion, therefore, arises vi^hether this dreadful power of mak- 
ing war should hereafter be intrusted to any Executive, 
any Cabinet, and any Congress. 

As might well be expected, Villard answered in the negative. 
"My answer," he said, "is no; that the delegation of this 
power by the people to their chosen representatives must 
be revoked; that only the people themselves, who pay the 
price of modern war, shall have the right to decide whether 
a cause for war exists, and whether the nation shall make the 
sacrifices which such a struggle involves." 

Villard's ultimate objective, however, was not the guar- 
antee that war would be waged only with popular consent 
but rather that war would not be waged at all. He reasoned 
that the mutual distaste for war of people everywhere would 
render their consent impossible to attain. He reasoned fur- 
ther that once the fear of war and sudden attack had been 
dispelled from the atmosphere in which international rela- 
tions were conducted war itself might be precluded. 

One of the roots of liberalism is opposition to compulsion 
or coercion. This, indeed, is the meaning of liberty. Insist- 
ence upon freedom or noncoercion makes a liberal oppose 
war and makes it difficult for him to sanction the mainte- 
nance of a large military establishment designed as an instru- 
ment of coercion. Indeed, Villard was convinced that a chief 
cause of World War I was Prussian militarism, and it was a 
fear of encouraging the military spirit that was the basis of 

204 Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 

his opposition to universal military training and the as- 
sembling of armaments in peacetime. Thus, throughout the 
debate over preparedness in the three years immediately pre- 
ceding World War I, Villard joined such liberals as Lillian 
Wald, John Dewey, Jane Addams, and President Alexander 
Meiklejohn of Amherst College in opposing military train- 
ing, Villard refuted the arguments put forth by advocates of 
military training to the effect that military service would 
"discipline our lawless youth, act as a tonic to democracy, 
promote industrial efficiency and 'furnish America with a 
soul.' " ^ The Neiy York Times reports Villard as maintain- 
ing that the "stuff and balderdash" of some prominent men 
that war was necessary "to keep up the manly virtues" of 
a race had been exposed by the fighting qualities shown by 
nations which had long been at peace.^^ Ideas such as these 
undoubtedly suggested to Villard the Prussianism of men 
like Friedrich von Bernhardi and Heinrich von Treitschke. 
Always Villard's opposition to military training reflected a 
fear of stimulating enthusiasm for militarism in these United 
States — a spirit which Villard felt could lead only to war. 
Toward the end of 191 6, the American Union Against 
Militarism, of which Villard was a member of the executive 
committee, made a desperate last attempt to forestall com- 
pulsory universal military training by bringing pressure to 
bear on the Congressional Military Affairs Committee. The 
union took the position that if an armed force had to be 
raised, then it should be raised by voluntary enlistment. Vil- 
lard maintained that compulsory universal military training 

^ Quoted in Merle Curti, Peace or War: The A?nerican Strug- 
gle, 1636-1^36 (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1936), p. 

^^New York Times, March 28, 1915, sec. II, p. 18, col. i. 

Approach to Internationalism and Pacifism 205 

was a good imitation of the Prussian method of government. 
He reiterated his distaste for such methods when he in- 
sisted, "I do not believe in combating this abominable Prus- 
sianism the world is facing by Prussian methods of warfare 
or by killing to put an end to war." ^^ At another time Vil- 
lard, in criticizing the Army General Staff, charged that it 
had "out-Prussianized Germany" in its demand for a stand- 
ing army of 286,000 men. Villard also argued that it was "not 
in accordance with the principles of American Government 
to pursue such a large military scheme." ^^ 

When it became clear that compulsory military service 
was inevitable, pacifist groups attempted to obtain complete 
exemption from conscription for those men conscientiously 
opposed to war. Villard likened the desired exemption to 
exemption from jury duty in a murder trial: "The difference 
between compulsory jury duty and compulsory taxes which 
are sometimes compared to compulsory military service, is 
that the moral law, 'Thou Shalt Not Kill' is at stake. All men 
are today excused from jury duty in a murder case who are 
opposed to putting a human being to death. A similar priv- 
ilege is all we pacifists shall ask if this nation decides for 
compulsory training." ^^ Villard undertook to persuade the 
government to adopt a reasonable policy for conscientious 
objectors. With the assistance of Roger Baldwin, he pre- 
pared a plan which embraced the concept of farm camps 
where the conscientious objectors would raise food for the 
Army. President Wilson seemed sympathetic. He wrote his 
secretary, Joseph Tumulty, to "Please thank Mr. Villard of 
The Evening Post for his memorandum which you sent me 

^"^Ibid., Feb. 13, 191 7, p. 9, col. 2. 
^^Ibid., March 18, 19 17, p. 5, col. 6. 
^^ Ibid., Feb. 13, 1917, p. 9, col. 3. 

2o6 Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 

about tne conscientious objectors. It contains a great deal 
that is interesting and sensible, and I am sure that it will be 
read with as much sympathetic appreciation by the Secre- 
tary of War, to whom I am sending it, as by myself." ^* 

The policy toward the objectors which was adopted, 
however, did not embody Villard's plan. This policy re- 
quired exempts to perform a substitute noncombatant serv- 
ice within the military establishment or serve a jail term. 
There were fewer than 4,000 conscientious objectors in 
the First World War, and all but 450 accepted an alternate 
form of service. Of these 450, Villard's friend Roger Baldwin 
was one who spent some months in prison. Villard wrote 
Baldwin in the Essex County, New York, jail in praise of 
his pacifist stand: "Seriously, you did a wonderful service 
and I am more proud than I can say to have known you." 
Villard was contemptuous of the jail sentence as a means of 
reprisal against conscientious objectors. Stupid governments 
everywhere, he wrote in verse, would never learn that: 

High walls and huge the BODY may confine. 

And iron grates obstruct the prisoner's gaze. 
And massive bolts may baffle his design. 

And vigilant keepers watch his devious ways: 
Yet scorns the immortal MIND this base control! 

No chains can bind it, and no cell enclose: 
Swifter than light, it flies from pole to pole. 

And, in a flash, from earth to heaven it goes! 

Villard began, before the war was over, to urge the dis- 
armament of all nations — a disarmament which was to in- 
clude the abolition of universal conscription. He proposed 

^* Quoted in Villard, Fighting Years, pp. 334-35. 

Approach to Internationalism and Pacifism 207 

that each nation be enabled to maintain only "small armed 
constabularies, but permit of the maintenance of no troops 
trained for war . . . Militarism grows upon the exercise of 
the military habit," he continued, "and no nation, in my 
judgment, can escape it which goes in for a large military or 
naval class." On another occasion Villard indicated the size 
of the force he thought the United States should maintain: 
"Now I want to see the United States of its own accord, 
return to its military and naval status of 1898 when our 
Army comprised only 25,000 men and the militia 100,000." 
Villard reiterated his fear of the military mind: "To me, the 
greatest menace in the world is the military and naval mind, 
and it is the same every^vhere. Hence our first objective 
should be the mustering out of these minds." In part serious 
and partly in jest, Villard once wrote that if he were dicta- 
tor he would "muster out the fleet . . . and reduce the 
army to a police force of 25,000 . . . retire every single 
one of the talking generals and admirals and send them all 
to Guam with the direction that they put that island into 
100 per cent preparedness and play at war maneuvers to 
their heart's content." The best insurance for small forces, 
Villard believed, was the abolition of compulsory universal 
military service, "for it was that devilish invention of the 
Germans which has made possible warfare on the present 
hideous scale, that is, the creation of 'Nations in arms.' " Vil- 
lard reasoned that if compulsory military training were 
abolished, nations would be rendered incapable of building 
the military strength with which to attempt to dominate 
the world. 

Along with the universal abandonment of compulsory 
military service, Villard advocated universal and total dis- 
armament. He warned in 19 18 of the danger of "trifling" 

2o8 Villard, Liberal of the trio's 

with the issue of disarmament by sanctioning partial or grad- 
ual disablement of military forces. He paralleled partial dis- 
armament with partial emancipation of slaves and gradual 
prohibition of alcohol: 

The danger of trifling with this issue, of talking partial 
disarmament, is comparable to the discussions of a partial 
freeing of the American slave by purchase or other- 
wise .... If there is to be partial disarmament, we shall 
simply be confronted with the old fears which have built 
up nations in arms and placed the power to make war not 
in the hands of parliaments or of peoples, but in those of 
irresponsible sovereigns and still more irresponsible cliques 
of military men. Gradual disarmament appeals no more 
than gradual prohibition or the curing of the habitual 
drunkard by limiting him to one spree a week. 

In 193 1, Villard, viewing Rumania's fear of Russia, Rus- 
sia's fear of all capitalistic nations, and French fears of Ger- 
many and Italy, was more than ever convinced that only 
total disarmament could forestall another war. Thus con- 
vinced, it was only natural that Villard was vitally interested 
in the disarmament conferences of the twenties and early 
thirties, the results of which he found for the most part in- 
adequate. Villard welcomed the opening of the Washington 
Conference of 192 1 and 1922 at which the Secretary of State, 
Charles Evans Hughes, made it clear that the United States 
favored immediate action on disarmament. In Villard's view, 
a "great beginning" had been made: "We have set up a 
standard for all sincere men to repair to and it will seem so 
reasonable and sensible, so generous and wise to the plain 

Approach to Internationalism and Pacifism 209 

people everywhere and particularly in America that the 
diplomats must come to it." 

Secretary of State Hughes offered the conference a three- 
point plan for restriction of the navies of the United States, 
Great Britain, and Japan. He proposed that all programs for 
the building of more capital ships be abandoned for a ten- 
year period; a large number of battleships of older types still 
in commission be scrapped; and that the remaining tonnage 
of battleships, and also of smaller fighting craft, be fixed in 
a ratio of 5-5-3 for the United States, Great Britain, and 
Japan respectively. His program called for the destruction 
of some thirty vessels with a tonnage of more than 840,000 
by the United States, of nineteen vessels with a tonnage of 
449,000 by Great Britain, and of seventeen vessels with a 
tonnage of 449,000 by Japan. The Japanese protested that 
the ratio properly should be 10- 10-7 but finally yielded after 
the United States promised that it would refrain from in- 
creasing its fortifications of Pacific Islands. France and Italy, 
who had been left out of the first discussions of naval limita- 
tion, agreed after much protest to accept a ratio figure of 
1.67 for capital ships but refused to permit any limitation 
whatever to be placed upon cruisers of less than 10,000 tons, 
upon destroyers and submarines, or upon aircraft. A British 
proposal to abolish submarines completely was counteracted 
by Secretary Hughes with the suggestion that the United 
States and Great Britain be limited to 60,000 tons of sub- 
marines each and France and Japan to 31,500 tons each. 
These ideas, however, were not adopted. An attempt on the 
part of the United States to include the reduction of land 
armaments in the program of the conference was defeated 
by French delegates. 

2IO Villard, Liberal of the ip20^s 

Villard was disappointed on a number of grounds with 
the conference and the Five-Power Naval Treaty which 
emanated from it. Limitation of arms was agreed upon rather 
than their complete abandonment, and thus the conference 
could be "nothing more than the merest beginning of dis- 
armament." Limitation was applied only to naval armaments 
and did not include land arms. The use of submarines was 
not outlawed. Furthermore, United States acceptance of a 
limitation rather than complete abandonment as urged by 
Britain was to Villard one of the "saddest and most dis- 
couraging things." Villard was convinced that the outcome 
of the conference was shaped in part by the attendance and 
participation of military experts. With resignation, Villard 
commented with reference to military and naval experts, 
"The question is whether we are not asking too much of any 
professional man to request that he take part in the whittling 
down of his own trade with the belief openly expressed that 
these first steps will lead eventually to the abolition of the 
entire profession." The Japanese compromise and French 
demands proved to Villard that the delegates of those two 
nations did not really contemplate peace but maneuvered for 
"reduced and more highly efficient instruments of war." 

On the other hand, Villard did not evaluate the conference 
as a complete failure. He recognized that it did result in a 
definite limitation of naval armaments — "Perhaps only the 
first step," he wrote, "but for every advance in the right 
direction at a time when the whole world seems bent on 
suicide we give thanks with full and grateful hearts." Villard 
also credited the conference with performing the service of 
educating the public. "The Conference," he explained, "can- 
not be merely a ghastly joke because of the enormous educa- 
tional value it has had, because of the revelation of them- 

Approach to Interjiationalism and Pacifism 2 1 1 

selves and their methods which the diplomats have given be- 
fore the onlooking world." But more important in Villard's 
view was the part the conference played in influencing pub- 
lic opinion in favor of disarmament: 

Now few dare seriously to urge that universal military 
service and complete preparedness, which it was the pose 
to advocate only a few years ago. Disarmament is the fash- 
ion once more. Disappointed as liberals must be that the 
Conference has achieved no more, that it has left land 
armaments wholly untouched, and that it has failed to 
scrap all naval armaments as it could so easily have done, 
let it be written down in truth that here in America it has 
helped to reverse the current of popular feeling. 

In 1927 the United States invited the signatories to the 
Five-Power Naval Treaty to a second conference at Geneva 
for the purpose of extending its provisions to restrictions 
on smaller naval armaments. This conference accomplished 
little, primarily because the United States, Great Britain, and 
Japan could not find a satisfactory basis of agreement in 
their search for a formula to extend restrictions on naval 
arms. Villard was again critical of the reliance on military 
advisors at disarmament conferences. "It is unfortunate," he 
said in 1927, "that the 'experts' — military and naval men — 
are called upon in these conferences to take part in the aboli- 
tion of their own careers and professions." 

The London Naval Conference of 1930 continued the 
policy of limited naval armaments based on capital ships and 
aircraft carriers on the 5-5-3 ratio among the United States, 
Great Britain, and Japan, and for Class A cruisers on a 6-5-4 
ratio. While the number of Class B cruisers, destroyers, and 

212 Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 

submarines allowed each power was not specified, tonnage 
for each power was limited. Thus the conference attempted 
to bring to a halt uncontrolled competition in building 
among the leading naval powers. To Villard the concept of 
limitation of armaments was far from satisfactory. He per- 
sisted in his demands for complete disarmament and by 1932 
was urging that the United States follow such a course alone 
if need be. 

Because he was convinced that military force, coercion, 
and war had never proved satisfactory solutions to interna- 
tional problems, Villard considered the existence and mainte- 
nance of a military machine an unnecessary and costly bur- 
den. Furthermore, it contributed to an atmosphere of fear 
and distrust within which the conduct of international rela- 
tions could only be strained and nations on the defensive. 
Villard envisioned a better world — one in which there would 
be mutual respect, confidence, trust, and cooperation among 
nations; one in which the problems of nations could be com- 
posed and adjudicated by international tribunals, thus ren- 
dering wars obsolete. It is to a consideration of these other 
aspects of Villard's internationalism that the remaining pages 
of this chapter are devoted. 

Alternatives to war as a method of resolving disputes 
among nations may be classified under two headings, namely 
those which are political in essence and those which are of 
a judicial nature. Included among the former are, for ex- 
ample, conciliation and conference; among the latter, arbi- 
tration and submission to a permanent international tribunal. 
Utterly opposed as he was to the use of force, it was natural 

Approach to Internationalism and Pacifism 213 

that Oswald Garrison Villard should support these more 
rational methods of dealing with international problems. 

International conference is the joint consideration and dis- 
cussion by representatives of two or more nations of matters 
of common interest. Historically, it has been difficult to 
secure international conference where, and especially when, 
it was needed. In part to meet that defect,^ the concept 
evolved of a permanent organization to provide ever-ready 
conference machinery in times of international crisis and to 
provide a forum within which the day-to-day problems of 
common interest to nations could be worked out coopera- 
tively. In this sense the League of Nations in the twenties 
and the present United Nations may be viewed in the nature 
of mechanisms for permanent and continuous international 

Oswald Garrison Villard recognized conference as a 
proper method of international relations. On numerous oc- 
casions he displayed his faith in the method by calling for 
international conferences on particular issues. Characteristic 
was his call for a conference to take steps to end the world- 
wide economic crisis following the stock market crash of 
1929. At that time Villard wrote in part as follows: 

[The problems of Europe] can be conquered only by 
International action and cooperation .... Why are the 
nations not working together, through their rulers? Why 
are the latter not meeting like the executives of a great en- 
dangered bank, if only to get to know one another, if only 
to exchange views, to plan for united action and a united 
front? One of the best-known diplomats in London de- 
clared not long ago that he had never been able to see why 

2 14 Villard, Liberal of the 1^26's 

the rulers were not meeting for just this purpose. It is an 
international problem, he said, not a national one, and can 
be solved only by men with authority sitting in almost 
continuous session. 

As early as 19 16, the Nation had taken a position in favor of 
a continuous international organization dedicated to unre- 
mitting efforts to maintain peace throughout the world. In 
191 8 and throughout the 1920's the Nation, under Villard's 
leadership, was to reassert and maintain that position. 

Villard also had certain convictions about the manner in 
which conferences should be conducted. One of these con- 
cerned open diplomacy. Because of the rather widespread 
belief that the First World War was caused in considerable 
measure by the secret maneuvers of diplomats, the first of 
Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points had called for "open 
covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there 
shall be no private international understandings of any kind, 
but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the pub- 
lic view." The rationale behind such a provision was that if 
covenants were open, the moral force of public opinion 
could be brought to bear on agreements among nations 
which might tend to destroy the peace. 

Yet the most important issues of the Peace Conference at 
Paris which followed the end of hostilities in 191 8 were dis- 
cussed behind closed doors and by a handful of men. Villard 
was bitterly disappointed, convinced as he was that the con- 
ference should be conducted with full publicity. 

The peace conference opened on January 18, 19 19. Ex- 
actly one week later, on January 25, 1919, the Nation pub- 
lished its first dispatch direct from the conference, which 

Approach to Internationalism and Pacifism ii^ 

was being covered by Villard himself. Already President 
Wilson had conceded the first of his Fourteen Points. A pre- 
liminary council had decided that the real work of the con- 
ference would be executed in secret meetings. Villard was 
appalled. He feared first that Wilson's willingness to com- 
promise on this issue was an indication that he might com- 
promise on others; second, he argued that open diplomacy 
was a crucial necessity if Wilson was to retain the support 
of public opinion which was vital to the achievement of his 
other objectives: 

The preliminary council [decided] to make utter mock- 
ery of Wilson's avowal of open covenants of peace openly 
arrived at, . . . How the President could have yielded on 
this vital point is absolutely inconceivable for it is funda- 
mental, and essential to victory on other issues. His one 
hope of success lies in securing the continued support of 
public sentiment by letting the peoples who have so 
warmly acclaimed him since his arrival in Europe know 
just what is going on, that they may stand behind him. Be- 
hind closed doors he can easily be outvoted, and without 
stenographic minutes all sorts of stories may be freely cir- 
culated to his injury. This is so evident that the whole fate 
of the conference may obviously depend upon the stand 
taken now. Yet President Wilson was present when the 
fatal action was taken, and he seems neither to have pro- 
tested nor to have seen the impropriety of rules of pro- 
cedure for the conference being laid down by a totally 
different body .... 

Wilson has thus early resumed his old habit of compro- 
mising . . . There is no bigger issue than covenants 

2i6 Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 

openly arrived at, and he who starts by yielding at the 
beginning is likely to yield in the middle and all the way 
through as a result of his early weakness. 

Villard continued throughout the conference to criticize 
what he considered press censorship and secret diplomacy. 
President Wilson, he concluded, evidently had "no intention 
of using the American press to educate people" on the terms 
of the peace. "The uncomfortable fact is," Villard con- 
tinued, writing in February of 1919, "that the Conference 
is moving slowly and so much in the dark that public inter- 
est in its work may wane." 

Villard was to criticize other international conferences of 
the twenties on the same grounds. Of the Washington Con- 
ference, for example, he wrote that "we have had neither 
open diplomacy nor all the publicity that is possible. There 
ought to be more open sessions in such a conference and 
more public debate .... If there should be a succession of 
such conferences, every one of them should witness more 
and more publicity, more and more talking and negotiating 
in the open." 

Another aspect of conference procedure which concerned 
Villard was the amount of participation accorded to the 
members of the conference. Villard's concept of an inter- 
national conference was that of a deliberative body in which 
all members would share in the dehberations and the policy- 
making with adequate debate and full publicity. In this re- 
spect also, he was destined to be disappointed in the Paris 
Peace Conference. Plenary sessions at which the entire mem- 
bership of the conference met together were few in number. 
On the occasions when they did meet, little deliberation took 
place. They acted rather more in the nature of a ratifying 

Approach to Internationalism and Pacifism 217 

agency. The important issues of the conference were re- 
solved in smaller groups such as that in which President Wil- 
son, President Georges Clemenceau of France, Italy's Pre- 
mier Vittorio Orlando, and David Lloyd George, Prime 
Minister of Great Britain, made the important decisions. As 
early as February i, 19 19, Villard spoke of "the little inner 
group [President Wilson and the premiers] who seem to 
have usurped the functions of the conference . . . Secret 
covenants of peace secretly arrived at seem to be the rule 
with them, and one wonders whether the conference itself 
will ever have any other function than solemnly to ratify 
their action." 

A few weeks later on April 26, 19 19, Villard wrote with 
increased bitterness and an ominous note of warning about 
the chances for future peace: 

The very existence of this committee is the result of an 
arrogant, unauthorized assumption of power, for never 
and nowhere did the conference endow Messrs. Wilson, 
Orlando, Clemenceau and Lloyd George with authoriza- 
tion to transact all the business and come to all the deci- 
sions .... 

How is it possible to produce a democratic peace or a 
lasting one under such conditions? A democratic peace, 
frankly, it can never be; a lasting peace it can be only if 
heaven shows an unexampled favor. 

The occasion of the Second International Conference of 
Socialists at Berne, Switzerland, in February of 19 19, gave 
Villard the opportunity to compare and contrast the 
methods and procedures of that body with those of the Paris 
Peace Conference. Villard preferred the Berne Conference. 

2i8 Villard, Liberal of the trio's 

The Second or Socialist International was more democratic 
in membership, allowed full debate and the utmost publicity, 
and in general offered more hope at that time of a construc- 
tive future than did the proceedings at Paris: 

For here is a real conference, in fullest publicity, with 
real debating, a conference of men and women, a confer- 
ence of victors and vanquished alike, ... a conference 
which ... is absolutely without official domination. No- 
body in Berne is taking orders, and the gathering meets 
three times a day instead of twice in four weeks. 

Though no Socialist myself, if I had the power to decide 
on which conference to rest the future of the world, I 
should unhesitatingly, and with real joy decide for this 
simple conference with its plain membership . . . the 
hands of a democratic gathering of democratic people, the 
real representatives of those who have fought, bled and 
died for their countries. 

From the mid-nineteenth century on, the efforts on the 
part of statesmen, liberals, and humanitarians to substitute 
the authoritative decision of impartial judges for a resort to 
war in the settlement of international disputes had become 
more vocal, articulate, and concerted. These efforts were 
manifested in a movement calling for greater reliance on 
arbitration, a means of settlement of international disputes 
by impartial judges on the basis of respect for law. At the 
Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907, arbitration was 
accepted as the most effective and equitable means of set- 
tling disputes. The second Hague Conference, while it did 
not achieve it, at least went on record as accepting in prin- 

Approach to Internationalisin and Pacifism 219 

ciple "compulsory" arbitration. The Hague Conferences also 
envisioned a permanent judicial tribunal which would 
further international law and promote the pacific settlement 
of international disputes. 

Subsequently, President William Howard Taft and his 
Secretary of State, Philander C. Knox, negotiated treaties 
with Great Britain and France, providing f or\ the arbitration 
of all justiciable questions, which were designed as models 
for future arbitration pacts. These treaties did not even 
except from compulsory arbitration those matters dealing 
with "vital interests" and "national honor" which previous 
agreements had contained. Unfortunately, these treaties suf- 
fered such emasculating changes by the United States Sen- 
ate that President Taft refused to ratify them. In evaluating 
the career of Secretary of State Philander Knox, Villard took 
occasion to write sympathetically of Knox's attempted con- 
tributions in this area: 

He had much to be proud of . . . [He did] sign the great 
arbitration pacts with France and England ... he pre- 
ceded these treaties with a circular note to all the great 
powers asking them to set up and support an international 
court of arbitral justice at The Hague, to have jurisdiction 
of practically all questions arising between countries. He 
believed that the establishment of this court would reduce 
armaments, and he was bold enough to believe, with many 
pacifists, that its decrees and decisions would be carried 
into effect merely by the force of the enlightened public 
opinion of the world. He felt that the court would speed- 
ily build up a code of law applicable to all cases by its own 
decisions based upon the fundamental principles of inter- 
national law and equity. 

220 Villard, Liberal of the ip20^s 

By 19 19 and 1920 there was considerable world opinion 
favoring the establishment of a permanent judicial tribunal 
to which international differences could be referred for ad- 
judication. Villard reflected the thoughts of many Amer- 
icans when he advocated, before the end of the First World 
War, the establishment of an international court to which 
"shall be submitted all issues between nations, dropping once 
for all the phrase about causes which affect the honor of a 
nation, precisely as courts between individuals are not in the 
least affected by the individual honor of such of those who 
come before it." The idea of a world court was concretely 
manifested in the provision of the Covenant of the League of 
Nations which called for the formulation and submission to 
the members of plans for the establishment of a Permanent 
Court of International Justice. To this end a group of jurists 
met at The Hague in June of 1920. Villard expressed his 
hopes for the outcome of their deliberations. He called for 
a genuine world court with compulsory jurisdiction and 
again made a plea for an extension into the international 
field of the judicial remedies accorded to private individuals: 

The Third Hague Conference should call for a genuine 
world court by empowering the Hague Court to pass 
upon disputes relating to purely international matters, 
with power to summon into court all parties to a suit or 
controversy. That is, it should have obligatory jurisdic- 
tion . . . Let us sheathe the sword for all time, let us ask 
of nations what we expect of all human beings, that they 
turn from private murder to courts, let us acknowledge 
the complete failure of force to remake character, to instill 
virtue, to ennoble souls. Let us try the other way, the other 
means — the way that lies through Nazareth. 

Approach to Internationalism and Pacifism 221 

During the 1920's, opinion in the United States moved 
slowly in the direction of participation in a world court. In 
1923, President Warren Harding presented the protocol em- 
bodying the international court to the United States Senate 
with reservations. Villard's Nation urged immediately that 
the United States accept the protocol as a step in the right 
direction, even though the periodical described the court as 
a disappointment to the extent that it retained the distinction 
between justiciable and nonjusticiable controversies and that 
it did not go far enough toward compulsory jurisdiction, 
codification of international law, and the outlawry of war. 
Although Villard opposed the League of Nations, he refused 
to go along with the so-called irreconcilables in the Senate 
(of whom his friend William E. Borah was one) who ob- 
jected to the world court on the basis that it was a backdoor 
entrance into the league. While the Senate, led by such men 
as Borah and Hiram Johnson of California, delayed action 
for many months, the proposal for the world court gained 
support throughout the country. Both major political parties 
endorsed it, and the House of Representatives adopted a 
resolution expressing approval of the protocol in March of 
1925. The Senate took final action on June 27, 1926, approv- 
ing United States adherence to the court subject to reserva- 
tions, among which was one to the effect that advisory opin- 
ions should be rendered publicly after public hearing, and 
opportunity for hearing given to the parties concerned, and 
that the court should not, without the consent of the United 
States, "entertain any request for an advisory opinion touch- 
ing any dispute or question in which the United States has 
or claims an interest." ^^ As late as the fall of 1929, the signa- 

^^See Charles Fenwick, International Law (3rd ed.; New 
York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc., 1948), pp. 523-24. 

2 22 Villard, Liberal of the ip20^s 

tories to the protocol were still attempting to find a basis 
of agreement with the United States over this reservation. 
By this time Villard was urging that the United States par- 
ticipate in the world court with or without reservations. 

A more immediate constructive step is for those of us who 
believe in our adherence to the World Court with or 
without conditions, to move for our entry into that or- 
ganization. Personally it seems to me it would have been a 
great deal better had we built on the old Hague tribunal. 
I am not much interested in reservations, but I am tremen- 
dously interested in seeing a genuine World Court into 
which every nation should obligate itself to take each and 
every cause which might lead it into conflict with another 
country. But let us get on with the experiment now 
offered to us, even if it be a mess of compromises. 

Although the United States eventually signed the protocol, 
Senate approval was never forthcoming. It was not until a 
Second World War had occurred that the United States 
was to join a world court. 

On January 3, 19 18, Oswald Garrison Villard, looking 
ahead to the end of the war in Europe, urged among his 
"reconstruction proposals" the establishment of a permanent 
organization of nations as a partial means for the advance- 
ment of peace and of democracy. He envisioned such an or- 
ganization as an "international parliament." "The time has 
surely passed," argued Villard, "for either elucidating the 
proposal or advancing arguments in its behalf." 

Thus, when President Wilson, on January 8, 19 18, advo- 

Approach to Internationalism and Pacifism 223 

cated, among his Fourteen Points upon which the peace 
should be based, a general association of nations under spe- 
cific covenants for affording mutual guarantees of political 
independence and territorial integrity to great and small 
states alike, Villard and his Nation were in accord. Yet 
Villard was subsequently to become one of the most vocal 
opponents of the Versailles Treaty which incorporated the 
League of Nations. As such, he found himself in company 
with the forces of isolation and nationalism. As described in 
his memoirs, it was not a situation in which he took much 

It was hard for us to oppose the League for all of us had 
dreamed of a parliament of man, and still harder to find 
ourselves fighting alongside of Boies Penrose and Henry 
Cabot Lodge and his satellites, but fight we did and so gave 
aid and comfort to those whom we opposed at every other 
point, whose whole influence upon our public life and so- 
cial and economic progress seemed to us about the most 
dangerous in our politics. That had happened to us before 
and happened to us again; one can only stick to the chart 
one has chosen to sail by and not be diverted by the char- 
acter of the consorts that may for a brief moment take a 
parallel course.^^ 

Villard's primary objection to the League of Nations was 
that it was an integral part of the Treaty of Versailles. The 
League, argued Villard, was "fatally involved with the wick- 
edness of the Treaty itself," and he considered the treaty 
iniquitous, to say the least. It is true, however, that Villard 
viewed the Covenant itself as containing some inadequacies. 

1^ Villard, Fighting Years, p. 460. • 

2 24 Villard, Liberal of the i cold's 

He objected mainly to what he considered the undemocratic 
nature of the League in that the four or five great powers of 
the world were accorded the dominant position on the 
League Council, which was in part a policy-forming and in 
part an executive body. Villard feared that the council 
would attempt to rule the world in its own self-interest. He 
expressed his misgivings in a public address in 1920: 

Others, like myself, can see in the League nothing else than 
a device to fasten definitely upon the world the domina- 
tion of the four Great Powers who controlled the Entente 
during the war and whose shortsighted or inhumane states- 
manship is responsible for the starving of Russia, the hor- 
rors of Hungary, the wicked injustice to the Tyrol, the 
carving up of Central Europe so as to create not one 
Alsace-Lorraine but a dozen . . . We find the League as 
now constituted so hopelessly undemocratic in structure 
as to be beyond remedy. It places in the hands of a half 
dozen men sitting behind closed doors and entirely be- 
yond the reach of public sentiment, particularly in an 
emergency, powers that no such group should ever be 
called upon to exercise. 

Villard's real opposition to the League, however, was 
rooted in his fear that, instead of functioning as an insti- 
tution to prevent war, the League would become chiefly an 
agency "to carry out the terms of the peace" — terms con- 
tained in the Treaty of Versailles of which Villard was a 
bitter and vocal opponent. 

Even before World War I had ended, Villard began to 
urge a just and humane peace — a peace concluded in a spirit 

Approach to Internationalism and Facifism iii^ 

of forgiveness and magnanimity. He advocated use of the 
methods of modern penology on Germany, that she be 
treated in such a way that she could most quickly become a 
useful and full member of the society of nations. He argued 
that too harsh a penalty or punishment would only serve to 
foster animosity and to perpetuate cause for further dis- 
sension. As early as January 3, 1918, Villard was writing: 

Much will, of course, depend upon the spirit of those who 
have to make the new peace and to reconstruct the world. 
A peace signed in bitterness and hate and continued in 
that spirit will be of dubious duration. We ought to for- 
give our public enemies as readily as we forgive the indi- 
vidual who commits a crime against us, but there is an 
ethical duty for public opinion to exact proof of German 
recognition of wrong doing and of sincerity of conversion 
before the sinner should be received as one entirely 
cleansed of crime. The outraged public opinion of the 
world may certainly be counted upon to take care of this; 
its attitude and that of the peacemakers ought not to be 
that of men seeking to punish the greatest crimes in his- 
tory by robbery or by the exaction of impossible penalties, 
but rather of the judges of modern penology, who desire 
to impose only that penalty which shall most speedily 
restore the criminal to society as a useful, safe, and worthy 

Five days later, President Wilson appeared before Con- 
gress and delivered his famous Fourteen Points message, the 
provisions of which seemed to Villard to contain the basis 
for the just and humane peace which he desired. Wilson's 

2 26 Villard, Liberal of the ip20^s 

subsequent war messages served to further Villard's hopes 
for the kind of postwar settlement envisioned by liberals 
throughout the world. 

The Treaty of Versailles which emerged from the Peace 
Conference at Paris seemed to many liberals, Villard in- 
cluded, grossly inconsistent with Wilson's earlier proposals. 
The terms of the treaty provided for the return of Alsace- 
Lorraine to France; the permanent demilitarization and a 
fifteen-year occupation by Allied forces of the west bank 
of the Rhine River; the severe limitation of the German 
Army and Navy; and an Anglo-French- American treaty 
of mutual defense against Germany. The treaty further pro- 
vided that Germany should be deprived of all of her colonial 
possessions and that they should become mandates of the 
League of Nations; that Danzig should be established as a 
free city; that a Polish Corridor to the Baltic should be estab- 
lished; and that Italy should be given a portion of the Aus- 
trian Tyrol which contained some 200,000 Germans. On 
the matter of reparations, the treaty was especially harsh, 
demanding that Germany restore all losses incurred by the 
Allied and associated nations, even including pensions to 
military victims and their families. Germany was also to de- 
liver to Great Britain, France, and Belgium a large quantity 
of reparations in kind — merchant ships, livestock, coal, and 
various manufactured products. In Villard's view, these pro- 
visions imposed a harsh settlement and contained the seeds 
of future wars. He wrote to Senator Robert M. La Follette 
to this effect and reiterated his lack of faith in the League: 

I see it is stated in the press that you are going to speak 
against the Treaty. I hope with all my heart that you will 

Approach to Internationalism and Pacifism 227 

speak not only against the Covenant, which is such a 
travesty on the League of Nations we have all been hop- 
ing for, but against the Treaty itself. The more I study it, 
the more I am convinced that it is the most iniquitous 
peace document ever drawn, that it dishonors America 
because it violates our solemn national pledge given to the 
Germans at the time of the Armistice and because it reeks 
with bad faith, revengefulness and inhumanity. It is worse 
than the Treaty of Vienna. Evidently Mr. Wilson and I do 
not use and understand words in the same way, for when 
he says the Treaty constitutes a new order, my mind 
stands still and I doubt my sanity for, to me, it not only 
retains the old and vicious order of the world, but makes 
it worse and then puts the whole control of the situation in 
the hands of four or five statesmen — and, incidentally, of 
the International Bankers. To my mind it seals the ruin 
of the modern capitalistic system and constitutes a veri- 
table Pandora's Box out of which will come evils of which 
we have not as yet any conception. 

Reparations and the related problem of Allied war debts 
deserve attention here. In 192 1 the Reparations Commission, 
created under the Treaty of Versailles, fixed Germany's 
reparations bill at $33,000,000,000. At this time, Allied 
Powers owed to the United States a total of some $10,350,- 
000,000 for loans advanced to them during and after the war. 
As early as 19 19, the debtor states moved to have their debts 
canceled or reduced. Eventually, the United States did make 
arrangements by which about one half of the original prin- 
cipal was forgiven but refused to cancel the debts in their 
entirety. It soon became apparent, however, that the United 

228 Villard, Liberal of the trio's 

States would receive payment on the Allied debts only if 
Germany made reparations payments, which were proving 
to be too high for the German economy to bear. 

A number of persons in the United States thought the debt 
and reparations settlements were not only ignoble but un- 
wise. Oswald Garrison Villard repeatedly called for a new 
international conference to reconsider the matter. In 1924 
the Dawes Plan, an attempt to redevise the reparations pay- 
ments, went into effect. This plan provided that the United 
States and the Allies should loan Germany $200,000,000 in 
gold to speed up her industrial recovery and to back a new 
currency issue. Her reparations payments were then to be 
allotted in such a way that she would make progressively 
larger payments over the years as she improved her eco- 
nomic conditions. This plan, too, did not prove wholly suc- 
cessful, and by 1926 there was again agitation for cancella- 
tion of war debts. By this time the continued insistence of 
the United States that the war debts be repaid was con- 
tributing to the unpopularity of the American government 
abroad. Villard called attention to the situation in a Nation 
article written in London during a trip abroad and urged the 
cancellation of part of the war debts: 

Our debt policy plus our tariff policy and our position 
as money-lenders to the world are gradually forming a 
European alliance against America. The European nations 
are frightened by our tremendous financial power; they 
cannot borrow money elsewhere, but they are trying to 
find means to defend themselves against our pressure to 
make them pay their debts, and our refusal, by means of 
our high tariffs to let them pay with goods. 

Approach to lnternationalis?n a?id Pacifism 229 

The Nation's policy of urging the cancellation of the debts 
that we shall never be able to collect and accepting fund- 
ing arrangements based on capacity to pay is the correct 
one. I am not, of course, optimistic enough to believe that 
we should receive many, if any, thanks from those whom 
we release from indebtedness. 

Villard was not so benighted as to advocate cancellation of 
debts with no strings attached. He argued that in return the 
United States should insist, among other things, on disarma- 
ment and the abolition of poison gas, submarines, and war 
planes. "In these inventions of the devil," he maintained, "lie 
not only the seeds of other wars but the genuine possibility 
of the complete destruction of our modern civilization." 

In 1929, another attempt to arrive at a solution of the debts 
and reparations problems was made in the Young Plan of 
December 22, 1928, in which once more Germany's repara- 
tions payments were scaled down. By the time the Young 
Plan went into effect, the world-wide depression had set in, 
and in 193 1 President Herbert Hoover, on re-examining the 
whole problem, announced a moratorium for one year dur- 
ing which no reparations payments or Allied debts were to 
be paid. Villard, who would have favored cancellation or 
drastic reduction of Europe's war debts, supported the 
moratorium and warned that debts and reparations stood in 
the way of the complete economic recovery of Europe: 

As long as debts and reparations stand in the way, it will 
not be possible to rehabilitate the shattered nerves and re- 
store to balance the psychology of Europe. Until this 
question is settled, the normal processes of trade cannot 
recur. As long as debts and reparations continue on the 

230 Villard, Liberal of the i^zd's 

books of the nations, they will form a barrier to the recov- 
ery of our own country over which no tide of returning 
prosperity can easily flow ... It is a fact that the pay- 
ment of reparations money has been doing injury to our 
business life by unsettling trade in the debtor nations and 
introducing into it an economic factor not created by the 
normal processes of give and take in international barter. 

It should be noted that payments on neither reparations nor 
war debts were ever resumed to any meaningful extent. 

The expression of self-determination, or the right of a 
people to determine its own sovereignty, gained currency 
during the First World War and was given impetus by Presi- 
dent Wilson's Fourteen Points message which specified the 
return of Alsace-Lorraine to France, the readjustment of the 
frontiers of Italy "along clearly recognizable lines of na- 
tionality," the creation of an independent Polish state, and 
the autonomous development of Austria-Hungary and of the 
foreign nationalities under Turkish rule. Many liberals 
joined President Wilson in viewing self-determination as a 
necessary and proper basis for a just and permanent peace. 
Writing in the Nation prior to the Fourteen Points address, 
Villard had urged the acceptance of "Abraham Lincoln's 
immortal saying that no man is good enough to govern any 
other man without that other man's consent as the only 
sound guiding principle for the readjustment of national, 
international, and racial relationships." Villard was con- 
vinced that one nation or people could not control another 
without the corruptibility of human nature evidencing itself. 
"The truth is," he said, "human nature is so weak that it is 

Approach to Internationalism and Pacifism 231 

impossible to give any set of human beings control over an- 
other without their human nature going to pieces and be- 
coming bestial. Our own American soldiers behaved very 
badly in the Philippines and in China, and so do the troops 
of any other nation." 

By 192 1, Villard was calling attention to the awakening 
nationalism of such areas as the Philippines, India, and Korea. 
He interpreted it as a logical extension of the struggle for 
individual self-expression, and he urged the free nations to 
set an example: 

In cases of this kind there is afoot a newly awakening race 
consciousness, or spirit of nationality if you please, which 
to my mind is of the profoundest significance and value. 
As the individual, the world over, is being taught that 
complete self-expression is the highest aim, so these strug- 
gling groups are likewise seeking to obtain their highest 
group self-expression. The only question is how, when 
nationality is achieved, it can be guided in the right paths 
to respect the rights of all others. The answer is certainly 
that we cannot expect it to follow them unless the great 
nations who so doubt the capacity for self-government of 
the struggling ones can themselves set a just and honorable 
example, can refrain from themselves exploiting Haiti, 
Santo Domingo, India, and Korea and Egypt and Tripoli 
and all the rest now enslaved. 

Villard was not impressed with the argument that these 
backward peoples had to be prepared for self-government. 
He argued that a nation could only obtain self-government 
by practicing it. Addressing the India Society in 1925, he 

232 Villard, Liberal of the i^zd's 

A nation can only attain self-government by practicing 
self-government ... a backward nation must have the 
right to climb to sound self-government by stumbling and 
falling, not once, but many times, . . . 

I think the world needs nothing so much today as to see 
the Indian peoples set themselves to the task of self- 
government however great and terrible the odds with 
which they must contend . . . the world needs nothing 
so much as some of these experiments in self-government 
because faith in democracy and democracy itself are at a 
low ebb .... 

In Egypt, India, China, South Africa, the Philippines 
. . . there are stirrings to challenge the existing order . . . 
I welcome these tests, I welcome these conflicts, for I be- 
lieve with all my heart that out of them will come a puri- 
fication, a clearing of the atmosphere, a driving out of 
our national lives of endless humbugs and hypocrisy, 

Villard's hope was that India's gaining of independence from 
Britain would encourage other colonial peoples to strive for 
their freedom. He expressed this view in a letter to D. S. 
Chang, editor of the Seoul, Korea, daily Do?2g Ah Ilbo, on 
the occasion of its tenth anniversary: 

May I also extend to your paper on this tenth anniversary 
the heartiest greetings of The Nation, which since 1865 has 
been devoting itself to the liberties of minorities, the right 
of all peoples to their own way of life, and to opposition 
to imperialism from whatever source? 

In view of this I need hardly assure you of our interest 
in the causes championed by the distinguished newspaper 
which you represent. We have never faltered in our belief 
that the Koreans were entitled to their own independent 

Approach to Internationalism and Pacifis?n 233 

existence, precisely as we have violently opposed the im- 
perialistic moves of our own country in Nicaragua, Haiti 
and elsewhere .... If India now throws off the shackles 
of English rule, enslaved people everywhere will be heart- 
ened to strike off their own shackles. We are even hopeful 
that the present American Congress will this year grant 
unconditional freedom to the Filipinos, something that 
we of The Nation have been asking for ever since our 
fleet sailed into Manila harbor on May i, 1898. 

The unfortunate result of Villard's letter to Mr. Chang, how- 
ever, was the suspension of Dong Ah llbo by the Japanese 
authorities on the ground that Villard's letter, reprinted in 
its columns, was "inciting." 

Villard's most direct effort on behalf of self-determination 
during the twenties, and one which he described as bringing 
"a torrent of abuse" down upon the Nation and its editors, 
was one on behalf of Irish independence. While Great Britain 
in the early postwar years was formulating Home Rule plans 
for Ireland, the Irish themselves, given impetus by President 
Wilson's advocacy of self-determination, had established a 
framework for independent government, and Eamon de 
Valera claimed the Presidency of the so-called Irish Repub- 
lic. Resistance to British rule on the part of the Irish and the 
counter-resistance of the British led to the so-called Anglo- 
Irish War of 1 91 9-2 1. The British use of mercenaries, the 
Black and Tans, and their reliance on terrorism to put down 
the Irish drew criticism throughout the world and, of par- 
ticular importance here, from Americans of Irish back- 

Irish-Americans had long supported the nationalist aspira- 
tions of their homeland, and a delegation of Irish-Americans 
had even gone so far as to call upon the Peace Conference 

2 34 Villard, Liberal of the i^zo^s 

at Paris to recognize the right of the Irish to self-determina- 
tion, without interference from any other country. Indeed 
Irish-American opinion, frustrated in these attempts, was 
later to be influential in defeating the League of Nations. 

The methods of the British Black and Tans against the 
Irish deeply shocked Oswald Garrison Villard, whose ad- 
herence to self-determination naturally inclined him to sym- 
pathy with the Irish cause. It seems reasonable to assume, too, 
that he was influenced by his Irish friends among his fellow 
liberals. For example, Frank P. Walsh, a prominent labor 
lawyer, who was associated with Villard in many liberal 
causes, was one of those who appeared in Paris on behalf of 
de Valera. 

It was at the suggestion of a young Irish doctor, residing 
in New York City, that Villard and his Nation in the fall of 
1929 moved to establish a committee of one hundred citizens 
to make a study of conditions in Ireland. Professor Robert 
Morss Lovett and Jane Addams were among those liberals 
who responded. In a letter to a British subscriber to the 
Nation, Villard explained the rationale upon which the com- 
mittee was established. His concern, he stated, was for the 
effect the aroused passions of Irish-Americans might have 
on American politics and the danger of war with Great 
Britain which he felt was inherent in the situation: 

I am so glad that you like The Nation and hope that you 
have been sympathetic with our effort, however mad a 
venture it may seem toward the solution of the Irish prob- 
lem. The truth is that the situation is becoming very alarm- 
ing on this side. The Irish people are being inflamed, as 
the New York riots show, by the news of the suffering and 
deaths among their relatives. The danger is, too, that it will 

Approach to Internationalism and Pacifism 235 

drift into politics, I am afraid that the plight of Ireland 
will be discussed in our Congress with a great deal of 
vehemence and bitterness. A powerful group has just been 
formed to compel Congres to recognize the independence 
of Ireland. Some of our best authorities believe that there 
is a grave possibility that war with England may loom up 
unless the situation is speedily relieved; hence, we thought 
that we could not remain silent and we h^ped that our 
committee might at least act as a safety-valve. It is by no 
means clear, however, just what we can accomplish. 

Although Villard and the Nation staff were the prime 
movers behind the Citizen's Committee of One Hundred, 
Villard claimed that the official relationship of the Nation 
ceased at the point at which the committee selected a group 
of five persons to assume leadership. This group, which was 
later enlarged, became known as the American Commission 
on Conditions in Ireland. Villard attempted to clarify the 
apparent confusion over names to the managing editor of 
the New York Times: 

It is true that the newspapers have varying names for the 
Irish Commission, the exact title of which is the American 
Commission on Conditions in Ireland. I regret that the 
Commission saw fit to prefix the word "American," as 
that has given rise to the mis-understanding that it is per- 
haps official, but with that designation I had nothing to do. 
My relation to the Commission has been limited solely to 
calHng into being the Committee of 100 and not the Com- 
mission as you suggest. That Commission, originally of 
five, was elected by two votes of the Committee. I have 
scrupulously kept away from the meetings of the Com- 

236 Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 

mission, except on two occasions when I was present as a 
spectator, in order that the Commission should feel per- 
fectly free to act without regard to my views in the matter. 

In November of 1920, the Commission on Conditions in 
Ireland announced a subcommittee which was to go to Ire- 
land to conduct an on-the-spot investigation. The subcom- 
mittee was cautioned not to overlook the British point of 
view and to tap official government sources of information 
as well as to elicit all shades of public opinion. The subcom- 
mittee's journey, however, was never realized, for the British 
refused to grant them visas. 

Meanwhile the commission proceeded to pursue its investi- 
gations in the United States, establishing its base of opera- 
tions in Washington, D.C. The commission, now chaired by 
Jane Addams and consisting of Senators David I. Walsh and 
George Norris, L. Hollingsworth Wood, Frederic C. Howe, 
James H. Maurer, Norman Thomas, and Major Oliver P. 
Newman, remained in session for weeks and heard numerous 

Irish-Americans, encouraged by the resulting publicity 
and sympathy attendant to the situation in Ireland and the 
American response, became more impassioned in their pleas 
for action against the British. One speaker went so far as to 
urge in an address given at Madison Square Garden that the 
"Irish should start a race vendetta in America, take an eye 
for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and tear down anything 
English in America" if British warfare against the Irish did 
not stop.^''' Villard was quick to condemn this type of pro- 
gram. In a letter to the speaker which he made public, Villard 
insisted that American concern in the Irish question was only 

'^'^ New York Times, Jan. 8, 192 1, p. 2, col. 7. 

Approach to Internationalism and Pacifism 237 

in the interest of self-determination and was not anti-British 
and that violence on the part of the Irish in America would 
only be resented and detrimental to the Irish cause: 

America, because of its love of liberty, is bound to take 
a friendly interest in the struggle of any people for the 
control of their Government but any suggestion that the 
struggle be transferred to this side of thei 5)cean will be 
resented throughout this country by all right-thinking 

Do not make any mistake; American interest in self- 
determination for Ireland does not imply hostility to Eng- 
land. Those of us here who have been most warmly urging 
an early solution of the Irish trouble do so primarily be- 
cause we are interested in keeping the peace between Eng- 
land and the United States.^^ 

This statement by Villard came at a time when he and 
his Nation were undergoing much criticism for their part in 
the Irish investigations. They were accused by some of 
intervening in the affairs of Britain, of encouraging the Sinn 
Fein organization by promoting its American propaganda, 
and of fostering an anti-British campaign in America. That 
Villard had raised fears concerning the extent to which he 
was willing to carry his activities on behalf of the Irish is 
reflected in an editorial in the New York Times welcoming 
Villard's statement quoted above: 

Apprehensions as to how far Oswald Garrison Villard 
might go in service of the Sinn Fein organization in pro- 
moting its American propaganda and in helping its leaders 
to spread here the impression that the severities practiced 

18 Ibid. 

238 Villard, Liberal of the 1^26' 5 

in Ireland by the British government are explicable only 
as illustrative of British cruelty and hate, now can be, not 
altogether dismissed, perhaps, but certainly much allayed. 

For Mr. Villard does draw a line, broad and clear, 
enough to be clearly seen, beyond which he will not ac- 
company the Irish revolters. 

He draws it this side of starting, or even trying to start 
in the United States, the sort of campaign which when 
proposed and urged by the man Boland received vehement 

Villard himself professed never to understand fully why 
the work of the Irish Commission aroused so much opposi- 
tion. He commented in his memoirs that "it is hard for me 
to understand why that Irish Commission roused such pas- 
sionate anger among the ruling classes, especially the 'society 
people' in New York, Boston, and Washington. I suppose 
that we were then still so near to the war that it seemed an 
effort to reflect upon the British who were still our dearly 
beloved Allies." 20 

The commission eventually published its report but had 
to admit severe limitations. The British, as might be expected, 
had refused to cooperate, so that the only witnesses to ap- 
pear were biased in favor of the Irish. Being confined to 
conducting its investigations within the borders of the United 
States was, of course, a handicap of the first magnitude. Vil- 
lard described the disadvantages under which the commis- 
sion had labored to British journalist Herbert W. Horwill 
and admitted the failure of the commission: 

"^^ Ibid., Jan. 10, 192 1, p. 10, col. 5. 
20 Villard, Fighting Years, p. 487. 

Approach to Internationalism and Pacifism 239 

Our Irish Commission has concluded its hearings and 
has drafted a report which must necessarily be one-sided, 
I fear. It was practically hamstrung from the first by the 
refusal of your Government to let us come over and of the 
British witnesses, who had accepted, to keep their promises 
to come to this country. The Commission has also aroused 
extreme antagonism among well-to-do classes who do not 
understand and who think that we are tryihg to stir up 
trouble between England and this country . . . the under- 
taking has hindered rather than aided The Nation, to say 
nothing of the cause of freedom. 

On another occasion Villard wrote apologetically to Jane 
Addams for having drawn her into the commission, and he 
spoke with disappointment of the manner in which the work 
of the commission had evolved: "I have felt at times utterly 
sick about it, the weakness of its direction and the mistakes 
of which we of the Nation as well as others were guilty, and 
so I have often reproached myself for ever having asked you 
to join. Nothing I have ever done has focussed such social 
pressure and intolerance upon us as this." 

Yet in attempting to evaluate the commission in retro- 
spect, Villard was confident that it had been helpful in di- 
verting British attention from the concept of Home Rule 
to a policy of independence for Ireland. In his Fighting 
Years, he pointed to the existence of the Irish Free State 
as a complete justification of his Irish committee. He re- 
printed in this volume, with considerable pride, a letter 
from Dr. Albert Shaw, editor of Digest and a former vice 
president of the New York Academy of Political Science, 
crediting the Irish Commission with having made a real con- 

240 Villard, Liberal of the 1^26's 

tribution to the cause of Irish independence. Dr. Shaw wrote 
in part to Villard: 

In the concentration of American sentiment upon the 
outrageous efforts of the British government to recon- 
quer the Irish people, the most influential episode was the 
work of the American Commission on Conditions in Ire- 
land. This was a difficult undertaking, and, in the end, it 
was proved to be a remarkable achievement .... There 
was great reluctance in this country to take any steps that 
were displeasing to the British authorities. They were ex- 
ceedingly hostile to any American attempts to secure fair 
play for Ireland, yet, while there was widespread Amer- 
ican sympathy for the Irish people, there was also a simi- 
larly widespread reluctance to offend the British. Thus, it 
took rare courage to assume a sponsorship for an organ- 
ized American inquiry into the conditions prevailing in 
Ireland. As editor and publisher of The Nation, you had 
long shown your readiness to support causes, however 
unpopular, when you believed that justice called for vindi- 

As I have re-studied the events and circumstances of 
that period, I have become increasingly convinced that 
your courage in accepting suggestions that you, personally, 
and The Nation, as an influential journal, should initiate this 
American Commission, contributed the essential factor 
that turned the scales. This commission, composed of men 
and women of great influence, assembled a mass of testi- 
mony that could not be refuted. Mr. Lloyd George real- 
ized that the time had come for a truce to be followed by 
an arrangement far more favorable to Ireland than had 

Approach to Internationalism and Pacifism 241 

been proposed in the Home Rule programs of Parnell and 

Accepting the platform of New York's Progressive Party 
in 1925, Villard acquiesced in a plank which called not only 
for "self-determination for every nation, unhampered and 
unembarrassed under institutions of her own choosing," but 
which demanded recognition by the United States of every 
government so established. The immediate issue to which 
this plank was directed was the matter of nonrecognition of 
Russia on the part of the United States. 

There are, traditionally, two rules of recognition de- 
veloped through international law. The first is that a new 
government coming into power by extraconstitutional means 
should be recognized when it meets the test of being a de 
facto government; that is, when it is in actual control of the 
governmental machinery and is exercising its authority with- 
out substantial opposition. The second rule is that recogni- 
tion should be granted if the new government is prepared to 
carry out the obligations of the state under international law. 

The United States steadfastly refused throughout the 
1920's to recognize the Soviet Union, ostensibly on the basis 
that the Bolshevik government had failed to recognize the 
debts of the Czarist regime and of the Kerensky government. 
There seems, however, to be considerable evidence that the 
United States withheld recognition because of dislike for 
and distrust of the political principles of the new Soviet 

Oswald Garrison Villard repeatedly criticized the United 

^'^ Ibid., pp. 490-91. 

242 Villard, Liberal of the ip20^s 

States policy of nonrecognition of Russia on grounds other 
than those recognized by international law. While insisting 
that he had no sympathy for communism, he could not toler- 
ate the rejection of Russia on the basis of disliking the form 
of her institutions: 

I am in favor of the immediate recognition of the Soviet 
government of Russia. I am entirely out of sympathy with 
the present use of the power of recognition as wielded in 
Washington. It is one of the worst things that Mr. Wilson 
did to institute the modern idea that recognition of a for- 
eign government is an ethical weapon — something to be 
given or withdrawn, as the case may be, according to 
whether we like or dislike the particular government with 
which we happen to be dealing at the moment. I believe in 
the historical American policy that any established de 
facto government is entitled to recognition without refer- 
ence to its morals or methods at home. Personally I do not 
happen to like the Communist government, I am still a 
Democrat and opposed to government by oligarchy, or 
a party or a group upheld by a Cheka, and the terrorism 
of dictators, but my dislike of that government has noth- 
ing to do with the question of recognition. Russia is in the 
family of nations and should be recognized. 

Not until Woodrow Wilson and Mexico, argued Villard, 
did the United States "officially begin the procedure of rec- 
ognition as a means of approval or disapproval or, as in the 
case of Mexico, as a weapon actually to over-throw the 
status quo." 

On another occasion, Villard wrote to the effect that 
through the full acceptance of Russia into the family of na- 

Approach to Internationalism and Pacifism 243 

tions she might be brought to the point of abandoning her 
repressive methods. "As for our own relations with Russia," 
he wrote, "I am more than ever convinced that we should 
recognize the Soviets at once and resume diplomatic rela- 
tions with them . . . The sooner international relations are 
normal, the sooner will the force of the world's public opin- 
ion be felt here, the sooner will the Soviets reafch the point 
where they will desist from repression and give up the pun- 
ishment of those who differ from them." 

Writing in 1930, Villard reiterated this view and admon- 
ished his readers against sitting in judgment on others: 

If each country is going to sit in judgment of the manners, 
morals and past record of every other, the world will be 
in for endless trouble and blood-letting. Practically no 
country, certainly not the United States, can come into 
court with clean enough hands to be able honestly to put 
on the judicial ermine. Finally, in numerous countries — the 
United States for instance — any given administration is a 
political one which cannot be trusted to be unaffected by 
purely political considerations, such as the voice of organ- 
ized labor, or of organized big business. 

Villard was firmly of the opinion that no country had the 
right to intervene in the affairs of any other country. The 
Russians, he argued, ought to be left to work out their own 
political and social problems without interference from out- 
side. He viewed activities in Russia as an experiment, and 
he tended to sympathize with them as such. More than once 
he made a plea for patience in viewing the changes in Rus- 
sia, to allow adequate time for a fair evaluation of their con- 
sequences. Upon visiting Russia in the fall of 1929, Villard 

244 Villard, Liberal of the ip20^s 

reported that the Russian government had definite aims and 
objectives in mind and that it was not to be underrated. He 
rightfully predicted that if that government survived until 
1933 it would be permanently entrenched: 

There can be no doubt as to the ability, the zeal and the 
industry of the men who constitute the present govern- 
ment of Russia. They impressed all by their ability, their 
polish, their vigor and their knowledge of what was going 
on outside Russia. They have a very clear vision of what 
they wish to achieve and how they propose to accomplish 
it, and very great confidence in their ability to do their 
job well . . . The alternative to the Soviet government, 
however, is anarchy and perhaps the breaking up of Russia 
into many States. There is not now, I repeat, the slightest 
chance of this taking place. The best American observers 
in Russia feel that if the Bolsheviki can weather the next 
four years without a national catastrophe, such as famine 
or war, they will be in the saddle beyond any possibility of 

Yet Villard, while sympathizing with Russian aims and ob- 
jectives, was severely critical of the methods Russia "was 
utilizing in her attempts to achieve those objectives: 

No one who has witnessed this Russian experiment and 
sensed its significance can remain unmoved by the human 
elements involved and by its dramatic quality. The deeper, 
therefore, the regret that the men who are doing these ti- 
tanic things are savagely crushing their critics or oppo- 
nents, are shooting, imprisoning, and exiling precisely as 
22 New York Times, Sept. 9, 1929, p. 6, col. 3. 

Approach to Internationalism and Pacifism 245 

did the Czar. The whole world yearns for a state which 
should really be controlled by the masses and not by hand- 
fuls of men temporarily in control of powers no group of 
mortals should have. Yet the Bolsheviks, with all their de- 
sire for peace, justice, liberty, and equality for a nation 
of workers, offer, side by side with tremendous benefits, 
the methods of a Caesar, a Cromwell, a Franz Josef, a 
Nicholas, and a Mussolini. 

In spite of his disapproval of her methods, Villard was per- 
sistent in his opinion that Russia should be given "every 
opportunity to try out Communism to the 72th degree." "I'd 
do anything," continued Villard, "to help them in power 
until they work out the changes now necessary in Russian 
life. This is wisdom and common sense." If the experiment 
failed, he suggested, the world could then "cross off commu- 
nism" as unfeasible, and, too, one could not help sympathiz- 
ing with the objectives of the Russian leaders. Comparing 
the Russian regime with that of Mussolini in Italy, Villard 
had no difficulty in choosing that of Russia as the more ac- 
ceptable to liberals: 

They [the Russian leaders] are on their way. By means of 
dictatorial powers, by force, by the use of exiling and 
drastic executions, by the use of all the means of repression 
to which MussoHni also resorts so freely and so basely. But 
with this difference: the Bolsheviks are working for the 
good of the masses of the working people. Their great 
aim is to give them vast opportunities for work, to give 
them clothes, tools, the leisure for rest and culture, the 
use of modern inventions, education; they seek to uplift 
them. MussoHni seeks nothing but the development of a 

246 Villard, Liberal of the ip20^s 

new imperial Power in Europe, the increase of the na- 
tionalistic spirit, the further entrenchment of capitalism, 
of industrialism, of militarism, of government for and by 
the few who are privileged. No sincere democrat, no pro- 
gressive, no humanitarian can fail to prefer the Russian 
experiment of the two autocracies, however much he may 
dissent from its cruelties and its intolerance. 

But Villard was careful to place himself among the dis- 
senters and to declare his faith in American democratic prin- 
ciples: "I, for one, cannot yet give up my faith in democracy 
and the liberal principles which, however often they may be 
honored in the breach in America, were intended to control 
and shape our American life." Villard had no fear of com- 
munism; he was confident that American democracy could 
be so strengthened as to prove without question its superior- 
ity over the Russian governmental system: 

I should not be afraid of Communism because I should set 
out really to constitute an honest and efficient government 
for the United States, one responding to the will of the 
American people as expressed through the initiative and 
referendum . . . our own system of government as re- 
constituted would not only challenge comparison with the 
Soviet program, but would seem infinitely more desirable 
so long as the Soviet Government is a bloody-handed 
class dictatorship. 

That same concern for small nations, reflected in Villard's 
advocacy of self-determination, motivated him to oppose 
economic imperialism or the policy of attaining power over 
a nation through control of its finances. Villard was an in- 

Approach to Internationalism and Pacifism 247 

sistent critic of United States policy toward Mexico, Hon- 
duras, Nicaragua, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, and 
Haiti. Villard's concern for the problems of Haiti are of par- 
ticular importance here. Perhaps, in part because of his sym- 
pathy for the colored peoples and in part motivated by his 
bitter disappointment in President Wilson's liberalism, Vil- 
lard took up the cudgels on behalf of Haiti in th'e twenties. 

Political instability in Haiti had led President Wilson, fear- 
ful that Germany or some other belligerent would attempt 
to get a foothold there and because American lives and 
property were threatened, to order marines to Haiti in 19 14, 
an occupation which was to continue until 1934, and one in 
which Haitian finances went into American receivership. 
It should be noted that Amerian marines also occupied the 
Dominican Republic from 1916 until 1924 while its finances, 
too, went into American receivership. Oswald Garrison Vil- 
lard labeled United States policy in these instances one of 
"polite conquest." 

American occupation of Haiti did not proceed smoothly, 
and in the course of events there American marines killed 
some two thousand inhabitants. Villard charged that the 
United States then proceeded to institute authoritarian rule 
in both countries — all for the "sake of the dollar": 

More than half the trouble in the world today is due to 
this invasion of the backward countries of the earth by 
dollar diplomacy, and . . . with the dollar inevitably 
comes corruption, the theft of government from the back- 
ward people, and the subjecting of them to the control of 
foreign conquerors — conquerors either by the dollar or 
the sword and usually by both. Santo Domingo is the 
clearest illustration of this. We went in to help and to aid 

248 Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 

in the administration of the customs. We have wound up 
by pulling down the government, and enforcing our rule 
throughout the country contrary to the wishes of the peo- 
ple, with no more moral right to do so than the Germans 
had the day they crossed the Belgian boundary. 

Villard's keen and active interest in the Haitian situation is 
reflected in an exchange of correspondence with Senator 
William E. Borah in the spring and summer of 192 1, Villard 
wrote to Borah in May of 192 1 on behalf of a delegation 
from Haiti which wished to present its case in Washington. 
Villard wrote as follows: 

I want earnestly to enlist your active cooperation in the 
matter of the three delegates of the Haitian Patriotic 
Union who are going to Washington the latter part of this 
week to present a long memoir to the Department of State 
(if they can secure an audience) and to the Senate Foreign 
Relations Committee. This memoir, which rehearses the 
entire story of the American occupation, is a most damn- 
ing indictment of everything the Americans have done, 
although it is written in the most temperate kind of way. 
The memoir more than confirms all of the gravest charges 
that have been made about the military and civil occupa- 
tion and adduces still others. 

I earnestly hope that you will do all you can to remove 
the stain from the American escutcheon. 

Senator Borah replied that he would be happy to receive 
the Haitian delegation, although he expressed doubt about 
the effectiveness of aid he could give. "I do not know 
whether, under the present regime," he wrote, "Senators will 

Approach to Internationalism and Pacifism 249 

be permitted to have any views upon the question or not." 
Borah added facetiously, "Possibly I may form some in 
secret at any rate." ^^ 

Villard was insistent that Borah initiate some kind of ac- 
tion but warned him that the State Department would be 
opposed to congressional investigation of the matter: 

This issue fundamentally involves America's good name 
and traditions and it is highly important that the whole 
subject be aired by a thorough Congressional inquiry. But 
strong and sinister forces are at work to prevent this, to 
issue counter-propaganda to discredit the Haitians, and to 
whitewash our glaring misdeeds in both Santo Domingo 
and Haiti. The State Department apparently is seeing no 
light, for Mr. Hughes refused to see the Haitian Delegates. 
It was indirectly conveyed to them that they could not be 
received because they did not officially represent the 
Haitian government. This, of course, is mere camouflage, 
not to say hypocrisy, for although this is technically so — 
the only Haitian government being a dummy affair created 
and upheld by the bayonets of the Marine Corps and do- 
ing its bidding — any real desire to right this grievous 
wrong would have led Mr. Hughes to lend a sympathetic 

By the end of June, 1928, events in Haiti had taken such 
a turn for the worse that Villard persisted in urging Senator 
Borah to support a congressional investigation: 

22 Letter of William E. Borah to Oswald Garrison Villard, 
May 4, 192 1, in William E. Borah Papers (Library of Congress, 
Washington, D.C.), Box 202. 

2^ Villard to Borah, May 27, 192 1, Borah Papers, Box 202. 

250 Villard, Liberal of the ip20^s 

Now word comes, following the re-establishment of the 
censorship, that two editors have been sentenced to six 
months in jail and $300 fine. Their offense seems to be 
chiefly to have carried at the top of their paper an appeal 
to President Harding to withdraw the occupation forces. 
The murder of Lifschitz also demands clearing up — it will 
never be cleared up as long as the Marines in Haiti are the 
sole investigators. The refusal of the Dominicans likewise 
to accept the absurd and enslaving terms as the price of 
their liberty is an indication from another quarter how far 
astray our Caribbean policy has been. Will you not jump 
into this fight and push through a congressional investiga- 
tion without which we shall never be able to bring the 
whole truth before the world and settle this question 
justly and honorably.^ ^^ 

The following month saw the realization of Villard's desire 
for congressional action. He, himself, appeared before a 
Senate committee and described American intervention in 
Haiti and Santo Domingo as the "blackest chapter in Ameri- 
can history in the Caribbean," and, speaking on behalf of 
the Union Patriotique of Haiti, the National Association 
for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Santo 
Domingo Independence Society, Villard urged a special 
Senate investigation of conditions there. A subsequent com- 
mission under the leadership of Senator Medill McCormick 
(Republican, Illinois) eventually issued a report which 
Villard viewed as somewhat innocuous. 

In 1929, President Hoover asked Congress to establish a 
commission to be sent to Haiti to conduct an investigation 
of the feasibility of withdrawal of troops from that coun- 
ts Villard to Borah, June 28, 192 1, Borah Papers, Box 202. 

Approach to Internationalism and Pacifism 251 

try. Such a commission was appointed and, chaired by 
W. Cameron Forbes, former Governor General of the 
Philippines, visited Haiti in 1930. (Villard's close friend, 
journalist William Allen White, vi^as a member of the 
Commission.) Villard expressed his delight at the appoint- 
ment of the commission in a letter to Secretary of State 
Henry L. Stimson, written on December 17, 192^, before 
the commission left for Haiti: "I need hardly tell you how 
thankful some of us are that at last something is going 
to be done to end the intolerable conditions in Haiti which 
have failed entirely on the constructive side so far as fitting 
the Haitians themselves for self-government is concerned. 
Certainly nothing should delay the removal of our military 
government and the substitution of civilian authority." 

The commission's final report concluded that there had 
been little effort during the years of American occupancy 
to prepare the Haitians for self-government, apparently 
because of an assumption on the part of the military govern- 
ment that the occupation would continue indefinitely. The 
report recommended the replacement of the military high 
commissioner by a civilian, the gradual withdrawal of 
United States troops, the preparation of the Haitians for 
self-government, and the election of a new President by 
the Haitian legislature. 

Villard was more than pleased with the commission's 
report, as he wrote William Allen White: "You have cer- 
tainly done a wonderful job and we are all thrilled by it. 
It gives one renewed faith that the old America will come 
back and our sorely tarnished idealism be restored." ^^ 

26 Letter from Oswald Garrison Villard to William Allen 
White, March 26, 1930, in William Allen White Papers (Library 
of Congress, Washington, D.C.), Box 124. 

252 Villard, Liberal of the 1^20'$ 

Throughout the twenties, Villard criticized what he 
termed the government's policy of helping bankers and 
capitalists to exploit weaker countries — especially those of 
Latin America — by supporting their loans and investments 
with the use of military force. Villard is reported to have 
said that if that poUcy were continued "it would push all 
twenty of the Latin-American republics under the eco- 
nomic vassalage of the United States and menace the peace 
and prosperity of the whole western hemisphere." ^^ Villard 
posited that the proper course for the government to follow 
was to serve notice on American bankers and investors 
that they went abroad at their own risk, that the American 
fleet did not follow the American bankers, and that the mili- 
tary forces of the United States could not be used to collect 
private debts. The New York Progressive Party, in which 
Villard was active, in 1925 stood opposed to the "use of 
the army and navy for the collection of either principal 
or interest on American investments abroad." In 1929 in 
a public address Villard maintained that most American 
liberals "want the Dwight Morrow methods of treating 
Mexico applied to all of Central America, and not the Marine 
method. They are opposed to . . . the doctrine that the 
flag follows the dollar, and that every American dollar in- 
vested abroad, whether honest or dishonest, is to be safe- 
guarded by American lives." 

The principles upon which Oswald Villard lived and 
worked have been accurately stated as "to be opposed to 
war, to hold no hate for any people, to be determined to 
champion a better world; to believe in the equality of all 
men and women; and to be opposed to all tyrants and all 

^"^ New York Times, Aug. 27, 1924, p. 19, col. i. 

Approach to Internatiojialism and Pacifism 253 

suppression of liberty of conscience and beliefs." ^^ These 
principles are consistent with the underlying concepts of 
American liberalism. They form the basis of Villard's views 
on foreign relations. As such, they represent an attempt 
to extend American liberal principles into the international 

28 Current Biography, 1^40 (New York: H. W. Wilson Co., 
1940), p. 830. 


Last of the Liberals? 

An analysis of the writings and activities of Oswald Gar- 
rison Villard demonstrates, contrary to the opinion held 
by some scholars, that recent American liberalism has lacked 
neither consistency nor continuity. 

Fundamentally humanistic, American liberalism has em- 
bodied individualism, rationalism, libertarianism, and hu- 
manitarianism. In its practical application of those values, 
it has demanded a positive program of governmental action 
to provide the economic, political, and social conditions 
necessary to their maximum development and realization by 
the average man. To this end, the American liberal move- 
ments from the days of William Jennings Bryan to those of 
FrankKn D. Roosevelt have waged war against the in- 
equities of the economic system, have demanded new and 
more effective means of popular poUtical control, and have 
insisted on the protection and enlargement of individual 
liberties. Common to them all have been beliefs that the 
life of the common man could be transformed, that the 
economic system could be brought under effective control, 
and that collective action was a proper means to those ends. 

It is not argued that there was any one unified progressive 


Last of the Liberals? 255 

or liberal movement in America — any one movement that 
advanced steadily toward its particular objectives with only 
occasional setbacks. Rather, it is contended that the various 
liberal movements in American social history show a con- 
sistency in their philosophic underpinnings and in their 
reliance on collective action through the intervention of 
popularly controlled government to meet contemporary 
problems, and that the consistency is due, in part at least, 
to the fact that, even in a period of severe retrogression, the 
liberal philosophy and spirit survived and left an indelible 
mark on the evolution of American liberalism. In short, there 
was continuity and consistency in the American liberal 
movement in spite of the fact that that movement was not 
a single, unified one. 

The most marked lapse in the steady development of 
liberalism from 1870 to 1932 was that which characterized 
the 1920's. Yet that period cannot be isolated from its past 
and from its future. The period was not devoid of liberalism; 
indeed, those years provided personnel and programs which 
nurtured the philosophy and method of recent liberalism 
throughout an era which saw that movement on the wane; 
in reality, the period formed a link between the more con- 
crete and articulate movements — the New Freedom and 
the New Deal. Oswald Garrison Villard's definition and 
defense of liberaKsm throughout the period is impressive 
and persuasive evidence in support of this position. 

Throughout the twenties, Oswald Garrison Villard stoutly 
supported the traditional American liberties of freedom 
of thought and expression and sought to enlarge the scope 
of criminal justice. He crusaded zealously and faithfully 

256 Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 

to extend individual rights and equal opportunity and 
protection to minority and underprivileged groups. 

Villard campaigned continuously and vigorously on be- 
half of political democracy, his efforts directed at the at- 
tainment of more responsive and more responsible political 
institutions — more popularly controlled government. Not 
content with this alone, Villard looked to voluntary organi- 
zations, particularly the political party, as a means of as- 
suring opposition and minority participation in the po- 
litical process and as a medium of restraint on government. 

Capitalism, Villard concluded, had failed to confer ade- 
quate economic advantages on the people at large and thus 
was in need of modification. Such, he believed, was the 
task of a political authority made responsive and responsible 
to the people. Laissez faire, with its implication of rugged 
individualism, was rejected by Villard as an outmoded 
and inadequate economic doctrine devoted to special in- 

Villard's liberalism encompassed internationalism; his con- 
cern for the human individual was a concern for all man- 
kind. His belief in freedom led him to accept wholeheartedly 
the doctrine of self-determination of nations. His concern 
for the release of the individual from economic bondage was 
extended to embrace a determined opposition to economic 
imperialism. His faith in the rationality of mankind had a 
logical extension in his faith that international problems 
could be resolved cooperatively and peacefully rather than 
through force. 

Villard's was a pragmatic approach to social institutions, 
an approach which led him to advocate experimentation and 
the rejection or modification of those institutions which 
proved ineffective in meeting human needs. The underlying 

Last of the Liberals? 257 

assumption of his pragmatism was a belief that the social 
environment could be brought under social control and that 
social changes could be more effectively guided by collec- 
tive social action than by tradition or reliance on some 
"invisible hand." 

In the fourteen years of Villard's complete control of 
the Nation, he and his staff were dedicated to th^ perpetua- 
tion of principles representative of the best in American 
liberalism. Individualism, rationalism, pragmatism, libertar- 
ianism, and humanitarianism; pacifism, anti-imperialism, and 
internationalism; tolerance and social engineering — Oswald 
Garrison Villard's writings and activities embraced them all, 
and together they form a kind of mosaic of recent Ameri- 
can liberalism. Always, Villard viewed the America of his 
day — its social, economic, and political institutions — with 
both pride and protest. He looked with pride upon its 
achievements and did his utmost to preserve and protect 
them; he looked with protest upon its deficiencies and in- 
justices and constantly exposed and attempted to eliminate 
them; he looked with enthusiastic optimism to a future in 
which its accomplishments would be consolidated and en- 

The task of predicting the future course of American 
liberalism is necessarily a precarious and pretentious one. 
If the period after the Second World War is contrasted with 
that immediately following the First World War, the casual 
observer would recognize that both periods were charac- 
terized by significant evidences of reaction, suspicion, and 
intolerance. The A4cCarthyism of the 1950's would seem to 
have had its counterpart in the Red hunt of Attorney 

258 Villard, Liberal of the i^2d's 

General A. Mitchell Palmer. The casual observer might 
be tempted to conclude that, since the voices of liberalism 
succeeded in surviving the twenties, there is cause to be 
optimistic in calculating their chances for having survived 
the fifties. This hope may not prove well founded. For 
where was the Oswald Garrison Villard of the 1950's? Who 
spoke out as vociferously and courageously in the past dec- 
ade on behalf of the unpopular and the unacceptable as did 
Oswald Garrison Villard in the twenties? 

One scholar after another had described and defended 
the new American conservatism — a conservatism in which 
liberty depends on concrete traditions and is menaced by 
reliance on human reason, a conservatism which denies 
that human beings are born naturally good and naturally 
reasonable. The pragmatist and rationalist Oswald Garrison 
Villard could never have understood and accepted this 
point of view. Villard, who argued that aU social institu- 
tions should be evaluated in terms of their practical con- 
sequences for democratic ideals and that institutions should 
be modified to meet changing conditions, could never have 
been persuaded to accept the thesis that freedom depends on 
traditions. Villard, to whom the rationalism of man was 
the very basis of his right to and potential for self- 
government and liberty, to whom the rationality of man- 
kind was the condition which would make peaceful co- 
existence of nations possible, would have been appalled at 
any categorical denial of man's natural reason. 

Villard, who fought for the extension of democratic 
political institutions and sought to breathe new life into 
those already in existence at a time when economic power 
threatened the democratic process in the United States, 

Last of the Liberals? 259 

would cry out against the words of conservative Russell 

Very generally speaking, my point of view is that any 
society must have leaders; and if we do not recognize or 
allow an aristocracy, then we shall have an oligarchy. 
An aristocracy is not necessarily "feudal," thoi^gh prop- 
erty in land is one of the best supports of true aristocracy. 
In any nation, the people who believe in the Republic 
must do their best to form a high and responsible leader- 
ship from what materials that nation has at hand. So 
far as men of business form a great element in our society, 
we need to give them responsibility and teach them 
responsibility; ... a man is seldom more innocently oc- 
cupied than when he is engaged in making money.^ 

Surely Oswald Garrison Villard, who more than once 
challenged the practice of unquestioning obedience to the 
state, would have welcomed a return to his alma mater to 
reply to that president of the Harvard New Conservative 
Club whose views may well reflect a tendency on the 
part of conservatives, eager for order and stability, to 
acquiesce in governmental authority and mere constitu- 
tional forms: 

What is it that the Harvard New Conservative be- 
lieves? He believes, first of all, that the mind and heart 
of man dwells within the framework of Divine Law. He 
believes that society owes the individual the safeguarding 

1 Russell Kirk in a letter to the editor, Reporter, XIII (August 
ii> 1955). 7-8. 

26o Villard, Liberal of the ip20^s 

of certain rights, which are best preserved by firm limita- 
tions upon governmental authority. He believes that the 
individual, in return, owes society certain duties, best 
performed by respect for properly constituted authority. 
Then, he believes that among the chief means of regu- 
lating the balance between society and the individual is 
a judicial system, the forms and decisions of which are 
scrupulously observed.^ 

Surely Villard, believing in the necessity of collective 
social action to meet social needs, would find little comfort 
in reliance on a divine law and order, in a belief in the prov- 
idential or invisible hand that characterizes much of the 
new conservatism. 

Oswald Garrison Villard recognized that liberal democ- 
racy requires as great an adherence to liberalism as it does 
to democracy itself and that liberalism provides the ob- 
jective of freedom and the faith in man which are, after 
all, the bases of democracy. Villard realized that a loss of 
faith in the common man is a threat to democracy itself, 
and he would have interpreted recent American conserva- 
tism as containing such a threat. 

Professor Stuart Gerry Brown had assured us that a new 
American conservatism has indeed been abroad in the land. 
"If any sense can be made out of the intellectual confusion 
which has characterized America in the decade since the 
end of the Second World War," he wrote, "it would seem 
to be a gradually concerted movement backward — a re- 
vival of conservatism, even at times of reaction." ^ Professor 

~ William C. Brady in a letter to the editor, Reporter, XIII 
(August II, 1955). 8. 
^ Stuart Gerry Brown, "Democracy, the New Conservatism, 

Last of the Liberals? 261 

Clinton Rossiter pointed to evidences of the presence of a 
new conservatism. He observed 

the decline in individualism and non-conformity, in hard 
fact if not in happy slogan; the new gains of organized 
religion; ... a quickened interest in security, whether 
won through savings, insurance, pensions, or, law; that 
ever-widening diffusion of property; the pervading air 
of nostalgia and of deep satisfaction with our institutions, 
and consequent distrust of the untrammeled intellect; 
the discrediting of the extreme Left for its flirtations with 
Communism; and all the pressures and irritations of life 
in a country threatened, as was Burke's England, by an 
enemy armed with ideas as well as guns.* 

If Professors Brown and Rossiter are correct, who are 
these conservatives? Are they, as Richard Hofstadter sug- 
gested in a volume entitled The New American Right, 
former liberals forced to this position because "the most 
that the old liberals can now envisage is not to carry on 
with some ambitious new program, but simply to defend 
as much as possible of the old achievements and to try to 
keep traditional liberties of expression that are threatened." ^ 
Can it be that Professor Hofstadter was correct when he 
reported that "there are some signs that liberals are be- 

and the Liberal Tradition in America," Ethics, LXVI (October, 

1955), I- 
* Clinton Rossiter, "Toward an American Conservatism," Yale 

Review, XLIV (March, 1955), 354-55. 

^ Richard Hofstadter, "The Pseudo-Conservative Revolt," in 
Daniel Bell (ed.), The New A?nerican Right (New York: Cri- 
terion Books, Inc., 1955), p. 34. 

262 Villard, Liberal of the trio's 

ginning to find it both natural and expedient to explore the 
merits and employ the rhetoric of conservatism. They find 
themselves far more conscious of those things they would 
like to preserve than they are of those things they would 
like to change." ^ Professor Brown, in his explanation of 
the apparent disappearance of the New Dealers from the 
contemporary scene, states that 

Political thinkers who, twenty years ago, might have 
been speaking their pieces as bits in the liberal ferment 
of the New Deal, are turning nowadays to the prescrip- 
tions of Burke — and remaining largely aloof from the 
world of affairs. They urge upon us the ideas of ec- 
centrics like Calhoun and John Randolph of Roanoke; 
they teach us that the American Revolution was in fact 
no revolution at all. The talk is of conservatism and of 
distrust in equality and democracy.''^ 

Samuel Lubell, too, has commented on the new activities 
of the New Dealers: "At home, the New Deal generation, 
once so zealous to make America over, devotes its evenings 
to wrestling with mortgage payments and inculcating a 
respect for tradition and discipline in overly progressive 
children." ^ 

If Professors Brown and Hofstadter and Lubell are correct 
in their conclusion that the liberals of yesterday have turned 
conservative, then Oswald Garrison Villard is all the more 

^Richard Hofstadter, The Age of Reform (New York: Al- 
fred A. Knopf, Inc., 1955), p. 13. 

■^ Brown, op. cit., p. i. 

s Samuel Lubell, The Revolt of the Moderates (New York: 
Harper & Bros., 1956), p. 4. 

Last of the Liberals? 263 

deserving of attention, for he becomes representative of the 
last of the outstanding figures in the history of the American 
liberal tradition. As such, his ideas and activities deserve 
recognition. As such, he played a notable and constructive 
part in the history of American liberalism. 


BihliozTdi^^ical I^otes 

The published •writings of Oswald Garrison Villard and the 
Villard manuscript collection in the Houghton Library of Har- 
vard University constitute the main sources of this work. The 
manuscript collection consists of correspondence, unpublished 
speeches, and memorabilia. Of particular significance have been, 
of course, past volumes of the Nation and Villard's Fighting 
Years: Memoirs of a Liberal Editor (New York: Harcourt, Brace 
& Co., 1939). No other biography of Villard has yet appeared. 
Unless otherwise indicated by footnote, quotations attributed to 
Villard are from either the Villard manuscripts or Villard's writ- 
ings in the Nation. 

There are a number of histories of the twenties. One of the 
best and most entertaining is that of Frederick Lewis Allen, Only 
Yesterday (New York: Harper & Bros., 1931); see also Frederick 
J. Hoffman, The Tiventies (New York: The Viking Press, Inc., 
1955). For the political views of the Nation, see Alan P. Grimes, 
The Political Liberalism of the New York Nation, 1 86s- 1932 
(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1953). 


On the history of the American liberal tradition, the two vol- 
umes of Richard Hofstadter, The American Political Tradition 
and the Men Who Made It (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 
1948) and The Age of Reform (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 
Inc., 1955) are among the best; also Eric Goldman, Rendezvous 
ivith Destiny (New York: Vintage Books, Inc., 1956). For a com- 


Bibliographical Notes 265 

parison of liberalism old and new, see Reinhold Niebuhr, "Liber- 
alism: Illusions and Realities," Neiu Republic, July 4, 1955, pp. 
11-13. On the evolution of liberalism, Harry Girvetz, From 
Wealth to Welfare (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1950) 
is invaluable. 


For his own recollections of his life, see Villard's Fighting 
Years, cited above. For those of his father, see Henry Villard, 
Memoirs of Henry Villard (2 vols., Boston and New York: 
Houghton Mifflin Co., 1904). For background material on Wil- 
liam Lloyd Garrison and abolitionism. Hazel Catherine Wolf, 
On Freedom's Altar (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 
1952) and Ralph Korngold, Two Friends of Man: The Story of 
William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips and Their Rela- 
tionship with Abraha?n Li?icoln (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 
1950) are of note. 


One of the finest treatments of civil liberties in this period 
is Zechariah Chafee, Jr., Free Speech in the United States 
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1941). On selected as- 
pects of civil liberties in the twenties, the following are valuable: 
Robert K. Murray, The Red Scare (Minneapolis: University of 
Minnesota Press, 1955); Louis F. Post, The Deportations Delir- 
ium of 1920 (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Co., 1923); Norman 
Hapgood, Professional Patriots (New York: A. & C. Boni, Inc., 
1927); Charles Merz, The Dry Decade (Garden City: Double- 
day & Co., Inc., 1931); Felix Frankfurter, The Case of Sacco and 
Vanzetti (New York: Little, Brown & Co., 1927); Nicola Sacco, 
Defendant, the Sacco-Vanzetti Case (5 vols.. New York: Henry 
Holt & Co., Inc., 1928-29) j^ also about Sacco and Vanzetti is Her- 
bert B. Ehrmann, The Untried Case (New York: Vanguard 
Press, 1933). See also McAlister Coleman, Eugene V. Debs, A 

266 Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 

Man Unafraid (New York: Greenburg, 1930) and Ralph Chap- 
lin, Wobbly (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948), Carle- 
ton Parker, "The I.W.W.," Atlantic Monthly, CXX (November, 
19 1 7), is an excellent piece also. 


For Villard's role in the founding of the NAACP, see Mary 
White Ovington, The Walls Came Tumbling Down (New- 
York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1947). On problems of the Amer- 
ican Indian, see Oliver La Farge and others, The Changing In- 
dian (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1942); on the 
immigrant, both Carl F. Wittke, We Who Built America (New 
York: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1940) and George M. Stephenson, A 
History of American Immigration (New York: Ginn and Co., 
1926) are noteworthy; Oscar Handlin, The Uprooted (Boston: 
Little, Brown & Co., 195 1) is scholarly and dramatic. Character- 
istic of the literature on American racism are Henry Pratt Fair- 
child, The Melting Pot Mistake (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 
1926); Madison Grant, The Passing of the Great Race (New 
York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1916); Madison Grant and 
Charles Stewart Davison (eds.), The Alien in Our Midst (New 
York: Galton Publishing Co., 1930); and, of course, Lothrop 
Stoddard, The Rising Tide of Color (New York: Charles Scrib- 
ner's Sons, 1920). For a detailed account of the labor unrest of the 
twenties, see Foster Rhea Dulles, Labor in Atnerica (New York: 
Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1949); on labor's decline during the pe- 
riod, see Emanuel Stein and Jerome Davis (eds.). Labor Prob- 
lems in America (New York: Farrar & Rinehart, Inc., 1940). 


On the case of Victor Berger, see Chafee, Free Speech in the 
United States, cited above. On the nature of the judiciary in the 
period under study, see Louis B. Boudin, Government by Judi- 
ciary (New York: William Godwin, Inc., 1932). 

Bibliographical Notes 267 


On the development of third parties during the twenties, see 
William B. Hesseltine, The Rise and Fall of Third Parties 
(Washington, D.C.: Public Affairs Press, 1948) and Murray S. 
Stedman, Jr., and Susan W. Stedman, Discontent at the Foils: A 
Study of Farmer and Labor Parties, iSjy-ip^S (New York: 
Columbia University Press, 1950). Invaluable is Keinneth Mac- 
Kay's The Progressive Movement of 1^24 (New York: Colum- 
bia University Press, 1947). 


On the relationship between big business and recent American 
liberalism, see Thomas P. Neill, The Rise and Decline of Liberal- 
ism (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1953); Irwin Ross, 
Strategy for Liberals: The Politics of the Mixed Economy (New 
York: Harper & Bros., 1949); Girvetz, From Wealth to Welfare, 
cited previously; and Louis Hartz, The Liberal Tradition in 
America (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1955). 


Among the significant works on pacifism, the following have 
been found useful here: Florence B. Boeckel, Between War and 
Peace (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1928) ; Merle Curti, Peace 
or War: The American Struggle, 1636-1^36 (New York: W. W. 
Norton & Co., Inc., 1936); Philip E. Jacob, Conscription of 
Conscience (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1952); and H. C. 
Peterson and Gilbert Fite, Opponents of War, ipij-ipiS (Mad- 
ison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1957). On various phases of 
international relations throughout the period, the following are 
helpful: Raymond L. Buell, The Washington Conference (New 
York: D. Appleton & Co., 1922); Ray Stannard Baker, Woodrow 
Wilson and World Settlejnent (New York: Doubleday, Page 

268 Villard, Liberal of the ip20^s 

and Co., 1927); James Kerney, The Political Education of 
Woodroiv Wilson (New York: The Century Co., 1926); Alfred 
Lief, DeTnocracy''s Norris (New York: The Stackpole Co., 
1939); Sir James O'Connor, History of Ireland, i'jp8-ip24 (New 
York: George H. Doran Co., 1926); Nicholas Mansergh, Ireland 
in the Age of Reform and Revolution (London: George Allen 
and Unwin, Ltd., 1940); Robert Morss Lovett, All Our Years 
(New York: The Viking Press, Inc., 1948); Chester Lloyd 
Jones, The Caribbean Since igoo (New York: Prentice-Hall, 
Inc., 1936); Arthur C. Millspaugh, Haiti Under American Con- 
trol, ipis-ip30 (Boston: World Peace Foundation, 1931); and 
L. L. Montague, Haiti and the United States, 1^14-1^38 (Dur- 
ham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1940). 


Of special significance among the works on the new American 
conservatism are the following: Daniel Bell (ed.). The New 
American Right (New York: Criterion Books, Inc., 1955); Wil- 
liam M. Buckley, Up from Liberalism (New York: McDowell, 
Obolensky, Inc., 1959); Gordon Harrison, Road to the Right 
(New York: William Morrow & Co., Inc., 1954); Russell Kirk, 
The Conservative Miiid (Chicago, 1953); Clinton Rossiter, Con- 
servatism in America (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1955); 
and Peter Viereck's Conservatism. Revisited (New York: Charles 
Scribner's Sons, 1949) and The Shame and Glory of the Intel- 
lectuals (Boston: Beacon Press, 1953). 



Adamson Act, 27 

Addams, Jane, 50, 55, 60, 85, 139, 
204, 234, 236, 239 

Advisory Council on Indian Af- 
fairs, 87 

Agricultural Marketing Act 
(1929), 173 

Agriculture, problems of 1920's, 

Alden, Raymond, 6^ 
Alien Registration Act (1940), 47 
Aliens, compulsory registration, 

47i 94. 95 . . 

American Association on Indian 
Affairs, 87 

American Civil Liberties Union, 
88, 102 

American Commission on Con- 
ditions in Ireland, 235-41 

American Federation of Labor, 
103, 145 

American Legion, 35, 45, 59 

American Union Against Mili- 
tarism, 195, 204 

Amnesty, 42 ff. 

Anglo-Irish War (1921), 233 

Anti-lynching bills, 69-70 

Arbitration, 218-19 

Australian ballot, 23 

Bagehot, Walter, 15 
Balch, Emily, 99 


Baldw^in, Roger, 67, 139, 205, 206 
Balfour, Lord, 16 
Berger, Victor, 37, 1 12-15 
Beveridge, Albert, J., 107, 161 
Billikopf, Jacob, 97 
Black and Tans, 233, 234 
Black list, 59-61 
Bondfield, Margaret G., 85 
Borah, William E., 60, no, 135- 

36, 137, 138, 161, 221, 248-50 
Boston police strike, 98, 99 
Boulder Dam, 180 
Brady, William C, 259-60 
Broun, Heywood, 61 
Brown, Stuart Gerry, 260, 261, 

Bryan, William Jennings, 24, 29, 

30, 32, 87-88, 254 
Burke, Edmund, 261, 262 
Burleson, Albert S., 37 
Burnett Immigration Bill, 89, 90 
Butler, Nicholas Murray, 153 

Calder, William M., 130 
Calhoun, John C, 262 
California Railroad Co., 2 
Cannon, James P., 102 
Capital punishment, 70 
Capitalism, failure of, 191-92 
Catholicism, intolerance of in 

1920's, 95-98 
Chafee, Zechariah, Jr., 36 n. 


Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 

Chamberlain, John, 31, 32 

Chang, D. S., 232, 233 

Change, hberal belief in, 103-108 

Child Labor Act (1916), 27, 119 

China, 232 

Christian Century, 13 

Church Peace Union, 195 

Cincinnati Tribune, 68-69 

City Club Realty Co., 9 

City manager plan, 122-23 

Civil Service, extension of, 25, 121 

Clayton Anti-Trust Act, 27, 119 

Clemenceau, Georges, 217 

Cleveland, Grover, 89 

Coercion, liberal opposition to, 

Collier, John, 87, 88 

Colorado River, 178 

Columbia, S.S., 3 

Commager, Henry Steele, 118 

Commission on Ireland, 235-41 

Committee for Unemployment 
Relief, 187 

Committee of Forty-Eight, 134, 
136, 146 

Committee of One Hundred, on 
problems of the Indians, 87, 88 

Committee of One Hundred on 
Ireland, 128-29, 234-41 

Committee on Militarism in Edu- 
cation, 195 

Communist Party, 48, 82, 124; 
Villard's vievi^s on, 130-33 

Conference for Progressive Po- 
litical Action, 134, 138, 139, 140, 
141, 146 

Conference method, in interna- 
tional relations, 2i2ff. 

Congress, U.S., 1 10-18 

Congressional investigating com- 
mittees, no 

Conscience, freedom of, 74 

Conscientious objectors, 205-206 

Conservation, 25 

Conservatism, 16 if .; recent Amer- 
ican, 258-63 

Consolidation, newspaper, 41; in- 
dustrial, 184-86 

Coolidge, Calvin, 42, 64, 91, 99, 
109, 119, 140, 155, 156, 162 

Cooper Union, 44 ff. 

Cotton Stabilization Corp., 174 

Criminal syndicalism laws, 48-51 

Croly, Herbert, 139 

Cuba, sugar tariff, see Sugar tariff 

Curti, Merle, 204 n. 

Cutting, H. Fulton, 44 

Dallinger, Frederick W., 1 13-14 

Darrow, Clarence, 60 

Daugherty, Harry M., 94, 100, 

Daughters of the American Revo- 
lution, 35, 59 

Davis, Elmer, 153 

Davis, James J., 94 

Davis, John W., 63, 140 

Davison, Charles Stewart, 93 

Dawes, Charles G., 117 

Dawes Plan, 228 

Debs, Eugene, 37, 42 ff., 112 

Democratic method, 107 

Democratic National Convention, 
of 1920, 42, 85; of 1924, 62 

Democratic Party, 82 

Denby, Edwin, 197 

Depression, Great, 99, 186-92 

Detroit Jewish Chronicle, 97-98 

Detroit Jewish News, 98 

De Valera, Eamon, 233, 234 

Dewey, John, 18, 55, 134, 149, 150, 
152, 153, 157, 204 

Disarmament, 206, 207-12 

Dobbs Ferry Hospital, 200 

Doheny, Edward L., 180, 197 

Dong Ah llbo, 232-33 

Douglas, Paul, 134, 149, 152, 155 

Dunn, Robert, 102 

Eastman, Joseph, 177 
Eastman, Max, 7 
Edison, Thomas A., 3 


Egypt, 231, 232 

Emergency Quota Act (1921), 90 

Emergency Tariff Act (1921), 

Employer's Liability Act, 26 
Equalitarianism, 125 
Ernst, Morris, 60, 153 
Espionage Act (1917), 35 ff., 42, 

43, 1 12-13 
Espionage and sedition legislation, 

state, see Sedition 

Fairchild, Henry Pratt, 92 
Fair Trade Act, 27 
Fall, Albert B., 94, 180, 197 
Farmer-labor alliance, 134 
Farmer-Labor Party, 134 
Farm Loan Act (1916), 27 
Farms, cooperative, 175 
Federal Farm Board, 173, 174, 187, 

Federal Reserve Act, 23, 27 
Five-day week, 190 
Five-Power Naval Treaty, 210, 

Forbes, Charles R., 94 
Forbes, W. Cameron, 251 
Ford, Henry, 41 
Fordney-McCumber Act, 162, 

Fort Montgomery Iron Co., 9, 

Foster, William Z., 98 
Fourteen Points, 28-29, 214, 215, 

223, 225, 230 
France, 209, 210, 219, 226 
Free trade, 1 61-71 
Free Trade — Free World, 171 
Fuller, Governor and Mrs. Alvan 

T., 54-55 

Gardner, Gilson, 147 
Garrison, Wendell Phillips, 4 
Garrison, William Lloyd, 4, 7, 

Garrison Realty Co., 9 


General Electric Co., 3 
Germanistic Society, 128 
German Revolution (1848), i 
Germany, 225, 226, 247, 248 
Glass, Carter, 81, 82 
Godkin, Edwin, 10, 11, 12 
Golden Spike ceremony, 2 
Gompers, Samuel, 38, 145 
Grain Stabilization Corp., 174 
Grangers, 17, 22 ff., 27 
Grant, Madison, 93 
Grant, Robert, ^6 
Great Britain, 209, 211, 219; see 

also Irish Home Rule 
Greenbackers, 17, 22 ff., 27 

Hacker, Louis, 155 

Hague Peace Conferences, 218-20 

Haiti, 143, 198, 231, 247-51 

Haitian Patriotic Union, see Un- 
ion Patriotique of Haiti 

Hamilton, Alexander, 10 

Hapgood, Hutchins, 132 

Hapgood, Norman, 142 

Harding, Warren, 42, 45, 46, 155, 
156, 162, 173, 196, 221, 250 

Harriman, Edward H., 177 

Hart, Albert Bushnell, 8 

Hartz, Louis, 125, 159, 160 

Harvard College, 96 

Harvard Crimson, 41 

Harvard New Conservative Club, 

Hays, Arthur Garfield, 55, 60, 

142, 146 
Hearst, William Randolph, 124 
Hepburn Act, 26 
Hicks, John, 145-46 
Hilgard, Friedrich, i 
Hilgard, Heinrich, see Villard, 

Hill, James J., 177 
Hinkle, Beatrice, 85, 86 n. 
Hofstadter, Richard, 261-62 
Holmes, John Haynes, 81, 139, 



Villard, Liberal of the ip2o's 

Home Rule, Irish, see Irish Home 

Hoover, Herbert, 84-85, 92, 108- 

109, 131, 155-57, '"^z, 165, 166, 

170, 173, 174, 182, 184-88, 229, 

Hopkins, J. A. H., 136 
Horwill, Herbert W., 238 
House of Representatives, U.S., 

Howard University, 9 
Howe, Frederic C, 236 
Hughes, Charles Evans, 119-20, 

208, 209, 249 
Humanism, 18 ff., 193 
Humanitarianism, 19, 20, 2 iff., 

28, 77, 156, 193, 194, 198 

I WW, 36, 48, 49 

Ickes, Harold, 152 

Immigration, 89-95 

Immigration and Naturalization, 
House Committee on, 91 

India, 231, 232 

Indian, American, 86-89 

Indian Affairs, U.S. Commis- 
sioner of, 87 

India Society, 231 

Individualism, 18 ff., 24, 77, 156, 
192, 193, 198 

Industrial consolidation, see Con- 

Industrial Relations, Court of, 
Kansas, 100 

Initiative, 23, 25, 124, 125 

Injunction, use of in labor dis- 
putes, loo-ioi, 119 

Inland Waterways Corp., 176 

Interior, U.S. Department of, 87 

International court, see World 

Internationalism, 193, 194; of 
Woodrow Wilson, 27 ff.; of 
Franklin D. Roosevelt, 30-32; 
of Villard, 193 ff. 

International Labor Defense 
Committee, 102 

International organization, estab- 
lishment of, 222-24 

International Workers of the 
World, see IWW 

Interstate Commerce Commis- 
sion, 25, 179 

Intolerance, religious in 1920's, 

Irish Home Rule, 233-41 

Italy, 210 

Japan, 168, 209, 210, 211 

Jews, intolerance of in 1920's, 95- 

Johnson, Albert, 91-92 
Johnson, Claudius, 135-36 
Johnson, Hiram, no, 221 
Johnston, Mercer Green, 146 
Jordan, David Starr, 50 
Judiciary, U.S., 11 8-21 

Kansas, Court of Industrial Rela- 
tions, see Industrial Relations, 
Court of, Kansas 

Kansas Pacific Railroad Co., 2 

Kazin, Alfred, 10 n. 

Keating-Owen Child Labor Act, 
27, 119 

Keep America Out of War Con- 
gress, 195 

Key Men of America, 59 

Kirchwey, Freda, 5 n., 12, 31, 32, 

Kirk, Russell, 259 

Knox, Philander C, 219 

Korea, 231, 233 

Ku Klux Klan, 35, 59, 62-64 

Labor, stand on immigration, 93- 

94; role in 1924 campaign, 145; 

attitude toward tariff, 163 
Labor-management relations, 98- 

Labor-Socialist-Farmer Alliance, 

Lafayette College, 9 


La Follette, Robert M., 29, 30, 

32, 64, 82, 120, 134, 139, 161, 184, 
201; 1924 presidential campaign, 

La Follette, Robert M., Jr., 153 

La Follette Seamen's Act, 27 

La Guardia, Fiorello, 60 

Laissez faire, 154 ff., 173, 177, 192 

Landis, Judge Kenesaw Moun- 
tain, 1 1 3 

Lane, Franklin K., 38, 197, 198-99 

Laski, Harold, 31 

Lathrop, Julia, 85 

League for Independent Political 
Action, no, 149, 151, 152, 183 

League of Nations, 196, 213, 220- 
24, 227, 234 

Lehman, Herbert, 97 

Lerner, Max, 159 

Lewis, John L., 98 

Liberalism, defined, 15 ff. 

Liberal Tradition in America, 
The, 125, 159, 160 

Liberator, the, 5 

Libertarianism, 19 ff., 77, 156 

Lincoln, Abraham, 45, 78 

Lindbergh, Charles, 127 

Lloyd George, David, 240 

Lochner, Louis P., 50 

Lodge, Henry Cabot, 223 

Loeb, James, 96 

London Naval Conference, 211 

Lovett, Robert Morss, 55, 57, 142, 

Lowell, A. Lawrence, 55-57 
Lowell, James Russell, 45 
Lubell, Samuel, 262 
Lusk Committee, 35, 50 
Lynching, bills opposing, 69-70 

McAdoo, William Gibbs, 62-63, 

80, 81 
McCarthyism, 257 
McCombs, William F., 80 
McCormick, Medill, 250 
MacDonald, Ramsay, 54-55, 122, 

136, 144 

MacKay, Kenneth, 140 n., 146 

McKinley, William, 122 

McNary-Haugen farm bills, 173 

Madison, James, 126 

Maurer, James H., 236 

Meat Inspection Act, 26 

Meikeljohn, Alexander, 204 

Men's League for Woman Suf- 
frage, 7, 84 

Merchant Marine Act, of 1920, 
171-72; of 1928, 172 

Mexico, 198, 242, 247 

Michigan Sugar Trust, 109 

Military Affairs Committee, U.S. 
Congress, 204 

Mill, John Stuart, 34 

Milwaukee, Wise, 112, 113, 114, 

Minimum wage for women, 119 
Mining industry, 181-82 
Minorities, 20; protection through 

voluntary organizations, 127- 

Mitchell, Broadus, 177 n. 
Morals, government regulation, 

Morgan, J. P., 141, 177 
Morrow, Dwight, 252 
Moskowitz, Henry, 78 
Murray, Gilbert, 76, 103 
Muscle Shoals, 178, 180, 183 

Nation, the, 3, 4, 5, 10, 11, 12, 
13, 29, 37 ff., 43, 47, 60, 85, 142, 
172. 173' 214, 221, 229, 233, 235, 
National Association for the Ad- 
vancement of Colored People, 
4, 7, 70, 78-80, 250 
National Labor Party, 134 
National Peace Conference, 195 
National Progressive Headquar- 
ters of the New Political Party, 
146, 148-49 
National Race Commission, 80 
Natural resources, 177, 180-83 
Nautical Gazette, g, i'j2 


Negro, 4, 5, 78 ff., 143; denial of 

vote in South, 1 15-17 
Neilsen, William A., 60 
New Deal, 17, 29 ff., 192, 262 
New Freedom, 11, 17, 27 ff., 42, 

Newman, Oliver P., 236 
New Republic, 13, 37 
New York Evening Post, 3, 10, 11, 

12, 196 
New York Labor Council, 145 
New York Peace Society, 195 
New York Times, 20, 39, 41, 65, 

66, 67, 69, 90, 147, 157, 179' 195' 

200, 204, 205, 235, 236, 237, 238, 

244, 252 
Niagara Movement, 78 
Nicaragua, 198, 247 
Nock, Albert, 38 
Nonpartisan League, 134 
Norris, George, no, 139, 153, 

178, 201, 236 
Northern Pacific Railroad, 2 
Nye, Gerald P., 127 

Ochs, Adolph, 96 
Oil resources, 182 
Old-age pension, 190 
Open covenants, 214, 215, 216 
Oregon, University of, 9 
Oregon Steamship Co., 2 
Orlando, Vittorio, 217 
Osborn, Henry Fairfield, 93 
Ovington, Mary White, 78 

Pacifism, 27, 143, 193, 194, 195- 

Palmer, A. Mitchell, 46, 52, 257- 

Paris Peace Conference, 214-18, 

Parties, role in democratic proc- 
ess, I29ff, 

Passaic, N.J., 102 
Patriots, professional, 59 

Villard, Liberal of the 1^20^5 

Paterson, N.J., 102 

Payne-Aldrich Tariff Act, 161, 

Penrose, Boies, 223 

People's Legislative Service, 139 

People's Party, see Populists 

Perkins, Frances, 85 

Permanent Court of Interna- 
tional Justice, see World court 

Philadelphia Press, 10 

Philippines, 231, 232, 233 

PhUlips, Wendell, 6, 45, 82 

Pinchot, Amos, 139, 142 

Pinchot, Gifford, 139 

Plumb Plan, 176 

Populists (People's Party), 17, 
22 ff., 27, 118 

Power, public, 177-80 

Pragmatism, 105 

Presidency, U.S., 108-10 

Press, freedom of, 6, 37-41 

Primaries, 23, 25, 109 

Progressive, the, 13 

Progressive Club, Hampshire 
County, Mass., 148 

Progressive Party of New York, 
82, 147, 178, 181, 241, 252 

Progressives, 17, 27, 121, 134 

Progressivism, 24, 25 ff. 

Prohibition, Villard's views, 73- 

Prohibition Party, 82 
Prussianism, 204-205 
Public ownership, 133 
Public works programs, 190 
Pure Food Act, 26 

Quay, Matthew, 94 
Quota Act (1924), 90 

Racism, theories prevalent in 

1920's, 92-93 
Railroad Brotherhoods, 146 
Railroads, 23; problems of, 175- 



Randolph, John, 262 
Rationalism, 19 flf., 28, 106, 193, 

194, 198 
Reapportionment, 1 1 6- 1 7 
Recall, 23, 25, 124, 125 
Reciprocal trade agreements, 171 
Recognition, in international 

law, 241 
Reconstruction Finance Corp., 

176, 187, 188 
Red Cross, 189, 200 
Red flag laws, 48-51 
Referendum, 25, 124, 125 
Reparations, 190, 227-30 
Reparations Commission, 227 
Reporter, 259, 260 
Representation, U.S. House of 

Representatives, 1 1 5- 1 7 
Republican National Conven- 
tion (1924), 63, 180 
Republican Party, 81, 155 
Roe, Gilbert, 144 
Roosevelt, Eleanor, 60 
Roosevelt, Franklin D., 17, 30, 

32, 85, 97, 107-108, 118, 131, 

H9. 152, 153' 17*5, 179-80, 192, 

Roosevelt, Theodore, 17, 25, 26, 

29, 30, 32, 84, 108, 124, 181 
Rossiter, Clinton, 260-61 
Russia, 106, 109, 198; recognition 

of, 241-43 

Sacco and Vanzetti, 35, 53-58 
Santo Domingo, 143, 231, 232, 

247, 249, 250 
Santo Domingo Independence 

Society, 250 
Schurz, Carl, 95 
Sedition, 42; Act of 1917, 36 ff.; 

peacetime laws, 46-47; state 

legislation, 47-52 
Self-determination, 230-33 
Senate, U.S., 109, no, 117, 118 
Shaw, Albert, 239 
Shaw, Anna, 7 

Sherman Act, 184, 185 

Sinclair, Harry F., 180 

Sinn Fein, 237-38 

Slum clearance, 190 

Smith, Alfred E., 62, 96-97, 171, 

179, 180 
Smith, Frank L., 94 
Smith-Burnett Immigration Bill, 

Smoot Amendment, 170 
Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, 162, 

170, 188 
Socialism, 163-64 
Socialist Party, 36, 37, 43 ff., 112, 

113, 114, 130, 131, 132, 133, 134, 

144, 217 
Stimson, Henry L., 85, 251 
Strassburger, Ralph Beacon, 135, 

Stratton, Samuel W., 56-57 
Subsidies, governmental, 171-75 
Sugar tariff, 168-70 
Supreme Court, conservatism of, 

1 18-2 1 

Taft, William Howard, 89, i6i, 

Tariff, 23, 117-18, 143; labor's 
position, 103; Villard's posi- 
tion, 1 6 1-7 1 

Tariff Commission, U.S., 167-68 

Teapot Dome, no, 140, 180, 181 

Thayer, Webster, 53 

Third degree, 70-71 

Third-party movement of 1920's, 

Thomas, Norman, 13, 60, 102, 
130, 131, 132, 133, 142, 153, 

Tolerance, 20, 34 

Trade associations, 185 

Trading with the Enemy Act, 52 

Truman, Harry S., 20 

Trusts, 23, 25, 184, 185 

Tugwell, Rexford, 149 n. 

Tumulty, Joseph P., 38, 205 


Villard, Liberal of the i(f20^s 

Underwood Tariff Act, 27, 161- 

Unemployment, during depres- 
sion, 187 

Unemployment insurance, 190 

Union Patriotique of Haiti, 248, 

United Mineworkers' strike, 98- 


United Nations, 213 

Universal military training, 203- 

205, 206-207 
Urban League, 78 
Utilities, 177 

Vardaman, James K., 201 
Vare, William S., 94 
Venezuela, 247 
Versailles Treaty, 223, 224, 226- 

Veterans' Administration, 94 

Veterans' bonus, 173 

Villard, Fanny (Frances Garri- 
son), 6 ff. 

Villard, Henry (Heinrich Hil- 
gard), I ff ., 7, II, 194-95 

Villard, Oswald Garrison, family 
background and experience, i- 
14; concern for minority 
groups, 76-104; criticism of 
governmental machinery, 105- 
25; dissatisfaction with major 
parties and search for new, 126- 
53; on governmental regula- 
tion and service, 154-92; on 
U.S. foreign policy during 
1920's and self-determination 
of nations, 193-253 

Volstead Act, 74 

Voltaire, 34 

Voluntary organizations, liberal 
reliance on, 125-29 

Wald, Lillian, 204 
Walling, William E., 78 
Walsh, David L, 236 

Walsh, Frank P., 153, 234 

Walsh, Thomas J., 178 

War, power to declare, congres- 
sional, 200-203; presidential, 

War debts, allied, 227-30 

Warren, Charles B., 109 

Washington and Lee University, 

Washington Conference, 208-11, 

Water power, 177-80 
Wheeler, Burton K., 134, 139, 

141, 153, 178 
White, Horace, 10 
White, William Allen, 45, 60, 97, 

136-37. 251 

Wilson, Woodrow, 29, 38, 108, 
121, 124, 155, 161, 171, 222-23; 
Villard assists, 11, 40; New 
Freedom, 26 ff .; New Deal, 30, 
32; position on Eugene Debs, 
42, 43; Negro question, 79-82; 
woman suffrage, 84-85; immi- 
gration policy, 89, 90; weak- 
ness of liberalism, 149; U.S. 
entrance into war, 196, 197, 
198, 202; conscientious objec- 
tors, 205-206; Paris Confer- 
ence, 215-17, 226-27; recogni- 
tion, 242; Haiti question, 247; 
see also New Freedom 

Witt, Peter, 147 

Woman suffrage, 25 

Woman Suffrage Association, 7 

Women, problems in 1920's, 83- 

Women's International League 
for Peace and Freedom, 195 

Women's Peace Party, 195 

Women's Peace Society, 7 

Wood, L. HoUingsworth, 236 

World court, 220-22 

Yachting, 9 

Young Plan (1928), 229 




Oswald Garrison Villard, Liberal of the ilia's 
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